By Jan Carabeo

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) – It’s a sure sign the holiday season is now in full swing. The Grand Illumination at Peddler’s Village happens Friday night. But before Santa makes his yearly appearance this evening, the Gingerbread Gazebo opens to the public this morning.

Nothing says the holidays in Bucks County quite like the annual Gingerbread Competition and Display at Peddler’s Village, and organizers are calling this one of the best years yet for the annual event.

“Every time you open that door, it’s wonderful,” Director of Festival Events Joseph Albert says. “You have to come, smell it, see it and take lots of pictures.”

And this year, a near-record 96 gingerbread houses compete in seven categories.

The categories range from traditional gingerbread to authentic recreations, to the movies.

Plus, new this year, a Christmas firehouses category, as well as categories just for kids, students and pieces in 3D. That category includes an impressive sculpture of a gingerbread Gritty.

The creations are no easy feat. Some bakers have been working on the winter scenes since the middle of summer.

“Some will start in July,” Albert says. “They start baking, they start creating. They have their fallouts. They rebuild until they have their fallouts again, and until they get it right.”

Even the kids are stepping up their game.

“They have said they’re watching the cooking shows,” he explains. “These kids, when they move up, they’re going to knock out some people because they’re doing a great job.”

The gingerbread houses are on display starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 15. The display is free and open to the public through Jan. 4.

“I think everyone did a really great job this year,” Albert says. “It’s really hard to say what’s my favorite. I think everyone will find something they like and fall in love with.