More than 150 contestants from around the country gathered at the Grove Park Inn in Ashville, North Carolina, last month for the National Gingerbread House Competition. Their houses -- some of which aren't houses at all, but complicated dioramas or elegant sculptures -- can take hundreds of hours to create and must be made entirely out of edible ingredients and contain at least 75 percent gingerbread. (The judges even drill into them with power tools to make sure nothing non-edible is hiding inside, a step that we're sure must leave some bakers in tears.)
Winter Springs, Florida, took home the grand prize this year for her "There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe" gingerbread house, which featured fully furnished rooms, a gum-paste railing, and a tiny claw-footed bathtub filled with candy bubbles. Her biggest challenge? "The shoe has no seams -- it's all one solid piece," she told Allison Fishman of Yahoo!'s "Blue Ribbon Hunters." Usually, gingerbread houses are made from flat slabs of the cookie, glued together with thick icing.Ashley Howard of
Second-place winner Heather Lewis of Austell, Georgia, made a gingerbread steamer trunk filled with delicate, delectable gingerbread Christmas ornaments. She told "Blue Ribbon Hunters" that the hardest part of her masterpiece was making the perfectly shaped ornaments.Third place, made by Barbara Evans and Mary Jo Dowling of Edlestein, Illinois, featured a horse-drawn carriage in a snowy setting, with individually airbrushed fir trees with ricepaper boughs, glued to strands of spaghetti and poked into pretzel-rod trunks.
The houses are on display at the Grove Park Inn through January 1, 2012. The exhibit is free, and a guided "Stories of Gingerbread" tour, with a behind-the-scenes peek at how the winning entries were constructed and judged, is also available (for tour ticket prices and hours, go to Groveparkinn.com.)
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