by Sandy McLeod [caption id="attachment_456" align="aligncenter" width="411"] Ann Bailey of Cary, NC won first place in the Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn.[/caption] It all began with a small group of gingerbread houses built by local folks in 1992 and for the past 20 years, The Grove Park Inn, a resort and spa in North Asheville, has been hosting The National Gingerbread House Competition during the holiday season. Each year the event grew larger and so has the caliber of judges and competitors. The gingerbread houses are on public view from Thanksgiving through the day after New Year’s. Winning entries are whisked away to New York City the third week of December to be showcased on national television. ABC's "Good Morning America" has covered the winners since 1998. [caption id="attachment_457" align="alignright" width="380"] This winning entry was designed in Greenback, TN by Kati Hooper, Taylor Gilmore, Ellie Talley and Ivy McJunkins.[/caption] This year the competition is on display from November 17th-January 2nd 2013.  The public is free to view the display from Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Admittance to the Gingerbread House display is free, but there are fees for parking. Valet parking is $15 and Lot Parking is $10. Upon arrival, acquire a map of the display in the front lobby. Catch some of the festive holiday spirit while taking a walk around the gingerbread house display. Find some of the houses on view in other parts of the Grove Park Inn, too. [caption id="attachment_458" align="alignleft" width="376"] Dean'na Smiley's piece, "Songbird Serenade," shows incredible attention to detail, form and color.[/caption] Some of the gingerbread houses are quite elaborate, with color and details that are astonishing.  Many of the houses that are submitted are created by regional artists and craftspeople showcasing their extraordinary talent.  Visitors may see imaginative renditions of sleighs and carriages, holiday themed fairytale landscapes, and a host of familiar Christmas icons such as fully trimmed trees, presents, reindeer, Santa, elves and more.   Houses range from the simple cabin that illustrates a country Christmas to elaborate mansions with holiday finery on display. [caption id="attachment_459" align="aligncenter" width="513"] Dare Johnson, of Suffolk, Virginia, created this winning gingerbread house, "Home is Where the Heart Is."[/caption] Each year, nearly 200 participants enter the contest that has gained national attention.  All ages submit entries, and many are collaborative works.  Judging is divided into distinct categories: adult, teen, youth and child.  There is a total of $7,500 in cash prizes awarded. One contestant will receive a special $1,000 award for traveling from the furthest away. After viewing the display, stop into the lobby of the Grove Park Inn and drink a refreshment by one of the massive stone fireplaces while sitting in one of the old time rockers. Take in the mountain scenery and the vintage decor and sit back and enjoy the holiday – Appalachian style. For those who do not make it to the Grove Park Inn to see the entire display, check out the select group of gingerbread houses on view at the Grove Arcade, in Downtown Asheville. Book a luxury cabin in Asheville, just 15 minutes from the Grove Park Inn.  Check our winter rates and our December special.