Athens’ Sweetest Holiday Tradition: The Uptown for the Holidays’ Gingerbread Display

It’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Athens. Uptown is decorated with an array of lights and garland. And, thanks to the Uptown for the Holidays Gingerbread Display, the sweet-spicy smell of gingerbread lingers in the air.

Gingerbread competition athens ohio

Nancy Mingus, grand prize winner in the professional category, with her winning entry: The Kidwell Covered Bridge
(Photograph by Joel Prince)

This year, the all the entries are housed at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, which makes sense given that making gingerbread houses dates back to 16th century Europe. Even George Washington’s mom had a recipe for gingerbread (though hers was the soft, bread-like kind, not the hard, crunchy kind used in the construction projects below).

This year’s winners are:

  • Grand prize professional category: Nancy Mingus, “The Kidwell Covered Bridge”
  • Grand prize non-professional category: Sarah Boumphrey, “Fourth Meal-The Burrito Buggy”
  • Teen First Place: Allie Holm, “Sesame Street Christmas”
  • Child First Place: Sam Billerbeck Popoae, “Medieval Church”
  • Group First Place: The Miller family, “Chateau Shalom”
  • Children’s Group First Place: Owen, Allison, Olivia and Lauren Barnes, “Hocking Valley Candyland”

gingerbread competition winner the burrio buggy athens ohio

Sarah Boumphrey’s “Fourth Meal–The Burrito Buggy” took the grand prize in the non-professional category.
(Photograph by Joel Prince)

Pro Tips for Delicious Success

Although the competition for this year has ended, there’s still plenty of time to make your own gingerbread house (while also spending some time practicing for next year).

Using the right icing is key. If you’re planning on entering next year, you’ll want to get your royal icing down pat—and use lots of it:

Recipe for Royal Icing (from, used with permission)
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
Mix together:
1 lb. powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 Teaspoon cream of tartar
3 and 1/2 oz. of water (slightly less than 1/2 cup)
Beat until icing forms stiff peaks and holds a sharp line when knife is drawn through.
Keep covered with damp cloth to keep icing from drying out. Work with a small amount of icing at a time. Store unused icing in a tightly closed container.

detail of uptown for the holidays gingerbread competition and display in athens ohio

Contest participants spent a great deal of time getting the details just right. Note the generous use of royal icing. (Photograph by Joel Prince)

Gingerbread Display Details

The display is a great way to reflect on past and present Athens landmarks. Surely, it’s the sweetest way to think about local history.

If you’re heading Uptown during this holiday season, a stop at the Historical Society is a must. The museum is located at 65 N. Court Street and is open Tuesday–Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. with special hours on Thursdays 12 p.m.–8 p.m. through December 17.

The display is also part of Athens’ Uptown for the Holidays, a month-long celebration of the season. Get the full schedule of the Uptown for the Holidays here.