Nathan and Myla Abercrombie moved slowly along the long row of gingerbread houses on one side of the City-County Building’s Grand Lobby, pointing out some of their favorites to their mother, Michele, and grandmother, Madalyn King.

Myla, 8, walked past several structures featuring cartoon characters, including a very cute Minion tree, and stopped at one with a swimming pool that intrigued her.

“She’s our artist,” explained her grandmother, who lives in North Huntingdon.

The Abercrombies — from Charlottesville, Va., and back in town for a holiday visit — joined others getting into the holiday spirit Tuesday afternoon by checking out the 2022 City of Pittsburgh’s Gingerbread Display & Competition. It’s the first time in two years the city set up its traditional in-person display.

COVID-19 restrictions had forced the competition into an online/hybrid format. An online gallery still is in place for those who cannot travel Downtown, and the competition’s website includes a list of the winning entries in 17 categories. A panel of judges selected this year’s winners based on originality, difficulty, overall appearance, precision and the percentage of decorations being edible, according to the city.

First place in the Family Division of the competition goes to “O Christmas Tree” by the Brady-Gallacher family. Anyone can vote for the 2022 People’s Choice Award online at The voting continues through Dec. 31. (Pam Panchak/ Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Melissa Culbertson, a program coordinator in the city’s Special Events office, said her office registered 300 entries this year, with 200 brought in for display in the two long rows in the lobby.

“We are thrilled with this year’s event and the return to the in-person display,” she said. “We’re continually amazed by our talented citizens.”

Culbertson and others are not only excited about the display’s return but also celebrating the contest’s 20th anniversary. To mark that milestone, they added a new category: City Neighborhoods, highlighting Spring Hill, Stanton Heights and the South Side.

She explained the choice was a way for communities to “highlight things such as their people, history and landmarks, just to list a few examples.”

“Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration emphasizes safe neighborhoods, welcoming communities and thriving people,” Culbertson said. “We wanted a place for folks to showcase that in our holiday event.”

The Gingerbread House Display and Competition launched in 2002 among Downtown hotels as a benefit for the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Free Care Fund. The contest has since attracted thousands of entries displayed first at Highwoods at PPG Place, before moving in 2019 to the City-County Building Grand Lobby.

“Woodland Fairy Candy Shop,” created by Brie Losego, tied for an honorable mention in the Adult 18+ Division. (Pam Panchak/ Pittsburgh Union Progress)

This year’s creations include popular culture references — such as a gingerbread rendering of the house from the movie “Up” — as well as churches, Carson Street, the Levin Clubhouse, Horne’s Christmas tree, a brew house and a football game.  Of course, Pittsburgh icons can be found among the edible structures, including Andy Warhol’s time capsule.

Individuals, families, organizations, students and chefs entered this year’s competition. Kindergarten to culinary students submitted houses, as did nonprofit groups — such as Scout troops and senior citizen centers — and city departments and authorities.

And the competition is not over: The People’s Choice Award is still up for grabs until Saturday, Dec. 31. The in-person display has QR codes posted to link visitors to the voting form for that award. Anybody viewing the online gallery can vote for their favorite online until then.

“Everyone has a say,” Culbertson said. “It’s kind of our best in show category.” 

She said the lobby has definitely been an “extra bustling place this holiday season with folks stopping by to see the display.”

Conner, a clerk in the wills office of the City-County Building, gets a close-up view of one of the gingerbread houses while face-timing with his daughter and two grandchildren, who live in New Jersey. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Michael Bethune, an Australian native who now lives in the Mexican War Streets, walked down the other line of gingerbread houses, capturing all that creative sweetness on video with his cellphone.

He said he planned to send it to his father-in-law in Youngstown, Ohio.

“He loves this Christmas stuff,” Bethune said. 

Visitors can view the display at the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown, on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday, Jan. 6. The display will be closed on Sunday, Dec. 25; Monday, Dec. 26; Sunday, Jan. 1; and Monday, Jan. 2.

Solomon Gustavo contributed reporting.

The annual City of Pittsburgh Gingerbread Display and Competition features many of the nearly 300 entries submitted by schools, nonprofit groups, families and neighbors. Visitors can view the houses at the City-County Building, Downtown, in person or online at The contest is presented by the City of Pittsburgh Office of Special Events, in media partnership with KDKA Radio, 100.7 Star, WAMO 107.3 and 93.7 The Fan. (Pam Panchak/ Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at

Helen Fallon

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at