GINGERBREAD COMPETITION: Omni Grove Park Inn: 2014
Sugar and spice and everything nice, plus decorative items, amazing creativity, color galore, and so much more. All those adjectives are just the tip of the icing for the fabulous entries at the National Gingerbread Competition at THE OMNI GROVE PARK INN in Asheville, NC. Of course in making these masterpieces, there is creativity, determination, patience, frustration and success. Fun for all!
This competition started 21 years ago. There were about 40 entries. Although some were fantastic there were many in those early days that were just sweet with lots of TLC and hope. A Leaning Tower of Pizza was really leaning. The wall of a castle was slightly askew and on and on – BUT, each were special and I adored them all. I still adore them all and wish each could win.
Over the years, contributors have learned and done more than just improve. Whether it is the learning and doing over and over or the competitiveness, there is no question that the entries have gone from “That is nice” to “OH MY GOODNESS! That gingerbread creation is FANTASTIC!”
Most think of Gingerbread Houses, but here you can create “whatever” your creative thoughts might design but your creation must be of at least 75 % gingerbread and everything must be edible. In the pastry world there is more than cake, candies, icing. Gun paste, fondant, pastillage [a sugar base dough that is used for exotic shapes and creations] and other pastry “tools” can be used. All edible. [If desired] There are rules and regulations which must be adhered to. The entry cannot exceed 24 inches high, 24 wide and 24 long. The suggested base is ½ or ¼ plywood. Remember: The rules and regulations must be adhered to or the entry is automatically disqualified.
There are four categories: Child, Youth, Teen, Adult in which there is a 1st place, 2nd place 3rd place in each category and then there is the grand prize winner which is from the adult category. All first place winners receive a cash check and a dinner for four at OGPI Edison Dining Room. In the adult category the first prize winner receives $5,000, plus a two-night stay on the [exclusive] Club Floor , a dinner for two and a Prize Package from Chef Nicholas Lodge for a two day class at the Nicholas Lodge School in Atlanta. His teaching skills are not in question and at his classes one learns to make [among other creative delights] sugar flowers that look so real that you think you should water them. There is no question, each winner is rewarded royally. For some winners there is a two day spa pass at the ultra extraordinary OGPI spa.
There are teams that enter with a parent or teacher as the team captain. A relatively new category is awarded to the competitor who has traveled the Furthest Distance with their entry. This year a woman traveled from Edgewood, New Mexico – about 1,500 miles.
This Gingerbread Competition is a serious and fantastic happening and each year all participants and categories have gotten better and better. It is amazing. The event has not been without glitches but very, very few. An entry was accidentally bumped or dropped and could not be repaired. Then the realization by the judges that the child, who purported to have done the entry, could not have done it. Oh my, not good. Over the years it has been discovered a very few times that everything in an entry was not editable. When you realize the hundreds of entries you know that glitches will happen but they have been very few and too the judges have become very savvy.
Each year the entries have gotten more and more creative, ingenious, spectacular, detailed and truly awesome. I am repeating myself, but it is so true.
The grand winner this year was so fantastic and original. It was a confection CHESS SET with holiday overtones. It was the creation of Anne B. Bailey of Cary, NC. The 32 chess pieces each had its own personality. I’d definitely like to meet some of these colorful characters. This winning entry is so magnificent and an art work that deserves a prominent place wherever it is placed. Sidebar: Anne Bailey won two years ago and says that this is her last year. Oh, AB give it another go, but I do understand if you want to retire.
Personal tidbit: Yes I have been a judge since the first competition. I am honored. I have learned a tremendous amount and met a wonderful group of judges and personnel.
The Omni Grove Park Inn is a true masterpiece and should be visited. If possible enjoy a stay, but regardless, visit this unique resort-even if it is just a walk around. It is aging beautifully and more fine tuning is in the works. The owners care and realize what custodians they are of the unique Omni Grove Park Inn and The National Gingerbread Competition. Thank you. Thank you.
Entries will be on display till January 1st. There is no admission charge but there is a parking fee of $10. Half of the fee will be donated to six local charities. Last year $64,000 was donated. What a win-win for all!