Montreat family places 3rd in gingerbread competition

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
The Somerville family won third place in the National Gingerbread House Competition.

A Montreat family has created an award-winning gingerbread house.

The Somervilles placed third in the adult category at the 30th National Gingerbread House Competition on Nov. 22 at Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville.

Their creation, “Merry Mountain Mayhem,” features a Santa Claus being chased up a tree by a bear while other woodland creatures sneak into Santa’s toy bag.

Elisabeth Somerville, the daughter of the family, said the idea came from her father around a decade ago when she was still in high school. She said she started competing when she was 10 and did so every year until she was 18, but she was never sure how to make her father’s idea work.

Somerville said the most difficult and technical part of their gingerbread creation this year were the three large pine trees that surround the cabin.

“It was something really different that I had never seen at the gingerbread competition before and we wanted to be kind of innovative and try something new,” Sommerville said. “I think it really paid off because the judges all said they really liked them. It was definitely a little more complex.”

As a solo competitor, Somerville said she earned a top 10 spot in both the youth and teen categories several times. She was also able to take second place in both categories at one point.

This marks the second year in a row the Somervilles have competed as a team.

“I was familiar with the competition and had been able to get some awards in the past, but last year was my first year back since high school,” Somerville said. “It was my first time entering into the adult category. The competition is really, really stiff. You have a lot of professional pastry chefs coming from all over the country to bring just really phenomenal pieces.”  

When awarding winners, the judges first announce the top 10 in each category before going back and announcing the top three.

Though the family did not place in the top 10 last year, Somerville said it did not discourage them from competing again, even if they did not place again.

“I wasn’t really expecting we would get anything,” Somerville said. “I was hoping we might get top 10, but I wasn’t expecting we were actually able to do that. The competition is incredible. Some of these pieces these people bring are unreal, they’re so beautiful and complex. When our name was called for top 10 it was completely shocking.”

Sommerville said it is an honor to be in the top three of what she described as amazing competition.

She called the competition an “Asheville tradition” and said even when she was not competing, she always looked forward to going and seeing the creations everyone came up with.

She said to be able to win third place with her family this year is something she will remember for a long time.

“To get to share being part of the winning group and going up to the front and receiving a ribbon with my whole team is just really, really special,” Somerville said. “It’s something that I will cherish those memories for a long time."