By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — Ben Conley wanted to build a farm.
The eight-year-old wanted to construct a barn, animals and pastures all out of some tasty gingerbread with all the right candy accents.
Ben was among about 100 people in Londonderry invited to the high school last week for Gingerbread Night hosted by the Londonderry High School Drama Club.
For $10, families get all the gingerbread and candy treats needed to make that original design house just in time for the holidays.
In Ben's case, he gathered bowls of gumdrops, Tootsie Rolls, hard candies and plenty of marshmallow cream to build his farm, complete with horses, pigs and fencing around his property.
"I never would have thought to do that," said Mackenzie Kewley, a LHS junior that sat and helped Ben with his farm display.
She said she was quite impressed with the realistic horses molded from Tootsie Rolls and small pigs made from pink candies.
Students like Kewley were on hand to supervise the youngest of the home builders and make sure every last gumdrop and frosting roof was placed just right.
School staff members pitched in to make the frosting and gather the ingredients needed to build the houses.
Drama club advisor Val Neslon said the event has been held about nine years and always draws a crowd.
She said it's not an official fundraiser for the drama club, just a way to join families together at the holidays.
"We order all the ingredients for the frosting and start making it about an hour and a half prior to guests arriving," Nelson said. "We also purchase all the candy and graham crackers and decorations. Basically, we cover the costs."
Brian Courtemanche came with his children Austin, 8, and Kyra, 6.
Both children created very original houses.
Courtemanche, a teacher, helped organized the Gingerbread Night several years ago.
"This is so great seeing the kids so happy and bringing the families together," he said.
Other teachers were spending the night building their own gingerbread houses, often in competition with a fellow staff member.
It wasn't just about playing with candy and frosting, there was some serious problem solving going on, Courtemanche said.
Carol Guertin brought her grandchildren Roselynn and Isabella Guertin to the school to build the sugary houses.
Nearby at the same table, siblings Alyssa and Nathan Beaulieu were busy spreading frosting on a rooftop.
"It looks kind of like a fort," Alyssa said.
Nelson said Gingerbread Night has become a family tradition for many in town.
"I think people enjoy making them because it's a way to work together with their families," she said. "I think gingerbread houses get everyone in the holiday spirit. It's an inexpensive night out for families and other people get to clean up the mess."