I heard this past week of the sad news that veteran actor Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83. I’ve seen a few of his movies such as Stir Crazy, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein, all of which were great comedies, family friendly movies. But what Gene Wilder is most famous for is his role as Mr. Willie Wonka in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. What a classic this movie is. Based on the popular children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, this movie is a must see for kids of all ages. A great story about greed and selfishnes and how in the end love, generosity, and kindness towards others triumphs all misfortunes is a story that resonates even in today’s fast-paced world.
The kids and I have seen this movie countless times and we love it every time we watch it. We’ve seen more recent versions of the movie with fancy state of the art animation and cinematography, but they never come close to the original. Nothing compares to the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder as altruistic Mr. Willie Wonka trying to help big-hearted Charlie with his golden ticket. In honor of this classy actor Gene Wilder who played the memorable role of Mr. Willie Wonka I’d like to share this story of my visit over the summer to the all American chocolate company Hershey’s.
When I went to Philadelphia to visit my sister Banu back in June, my objective was to see things around the area that were different and “off the beaten path.” So when Banu told me about Hershey’s Chocolate Factory and how it was only a couple hours drive from Philadelphia, we thought it would be a great idea to take the kids to see how chocolate is mass produced. This is Hershey’s Chocolate we are talking about, the quintessential American chocolate company. My sisters Banu and Shobha, all our kids including Rani, Anjali, Maya, Udai, Siddharth, Arun, Katalina, and Virina, along with my brother Kiran and brother-in-law Jaidev, headed on a road trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania to tour the Hershey’s Factory.
The drive to Hershey, Pennsylvania from Philadelphia was a very pleasant drive. Being a plant lover myself I couldn’t help but notice all the huge swaths of daylilies growing wild off the road everywhere on our way to Hershey.
The roads were relatively quiet and we passed through lots of little towns that were mostly farmland growing of all things, corn. That surprised me, I didn’t expect to see so many corn farms in Pennsylvania. Maybe Hershey grows them for corn syrup for their chocolate products I wondered. But I read on Hershey’s web site that they don’t use corn syrup in any of their milk chocolates and are phasing out using corn syrup in all of their other products. Obviously Hershey’s Chocolate Company does not own those corn farms. However, what they do own in this area are a large number of dairy farms.
After a 1 1/2 hour drive we reached the town of Hershey. This town is extremely small and you realize that were it not for the Hershey’s chocolate company this town may not have much by way of employment.
Let there be no doubt that this is Hershey’s town. Road signs, hospital names, school names, farmer’s markets, everything in this town are named after some Hershey product or another. It’s almost like entering Disney World; everything here is based on some Hershey’s chocolate theme. We even saw streetlights that were shaped like Hershey’s kisses.
We reached the large park entrance to what is called Hershey’s Park. Here you choose two routes: one is to the Hershey’s Chocolate World and the second route is for the Hershey’s Amusement Park. Since we were here for the chocolate tour we chose route one towards Hershey’s Chocolate World.
When you enter Hershey’s Chocolate World you are bombarded immediately with Hershey’s chocolates and all types of merchandising promoting Hershey’s.
We were finally going to do it. We were ready to pay the price for tickets for the chocolate tour and notice that the tour is free. Wow! We couldn’t believe it. We faithfully followed the signs and begin our chocolate factory tour.
We walked though signs describing how chocolate is sourced, how it’s made, the history of Hershey the man who started the company, and the walkway continued like this for a while.
Suddenly it occurs to me that this IS the chocolate tour and I ask my sister: “OMG don’t tell me this is what we drove all the way to see!” Banu looked at me in disbelief and shook her head and said, “I hope not.” And then just as we worry that this might be it, we arrived at a landing where you board a tram. Banu and I were excited; we were going to do an actual factory tour after all, and that too on a tram ride. Both of us took a sigh of relief, and kids and adults alike, excitedly boarded the tram.
Have you seen the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Folks, if you want to experience what Charlie experienced at the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory, with all the kaleidoscope of color and animation, and all the wacky things Mr. Willy Wonka did in that movie, this is the tour for you!
This was a Disney like ride. You know those rides where you sit in a little tram and go on a ride to see large animated figures. Seriously, the “tour,” as it was called, was an exaggerated animated version of the real Hershey’s factory. It was so wacky that we all couldn’t help but laugh. This WAS the factory tour we drove all the way for. We just sat back and enjoyed the ride and the show 🙂 🙂
After a 15 minute ride a very sweet gentleman gave everyone a Hershey’s chocolate. 🙂
There really wasn’t much else to do here at Hershey World besides the “tour” that we just went on. Now we had to decide what to do next. The kids wanted to go to the Hershey’s amusement park. I thought I didn’t come all this way so the kids can go to an amusement park, but as it turns out there aren’t any in the Philadelphia area. For Maya and Udai, my sister Banu’s kids, this was a big deal and they were super excited to be going to an amusement park. So we split up. My brother Kiran and brother-in-law Jaidev took all the kids who wanted to go to the amusement park with them, while my sisters Banu and Shobha and Anjali and I decided to hang out at Hershey’s Chocolate World.
The amusement park group got rained on for over 2 hours! They had to hang around at the park waiting for the rain to subside so they could continue on a few more rides. On the other hand my sisters, Anjali and I walked around the Hershey’ shopping area and tried to occupy ourselves here. This part is just a huge Hershey’s shop, there wasn’t much else besides merchandise here to keep us busy for a couple of hours.
So we decided to enroll in the Create Your Own Candy Bar workshop. This was an hour and a half workshop that turned out to be loads of fun. In this workshop we got to create our own chocolate bar, design our own package, and also watch it get produced.
The first step in this process was to choose a base chocolate bar of which we had a choice of milk chocolate or dark chocolate. Then we got to choose up to 3 toppings from a choice of 6 toppings.
After our selections were made we stepped into the Factory Line to watch our chocolate bar in production.
This part of the chocolate bar production was very interesting. We got to see our base chocolate get filled with the toppings of our choice. After our base chocolate was filled we watched it move down the conveyer belt to the chocolate enrobing machine. In the enrobing phase silky creamy chocolate was poured over our bars to completely cover them.
Once the chocolate got enrobed, it was sent through a cooling tunnel where all the newly poured chocolate is cooled and solidified. This process took the longest.
While our chocolate was finding its way through the cooling tunnel, we got to design our own packaging at the Packaging Design Studio. This was a lot of fun and we took our own time coming up with a cool design for our candy bars.
By the time we were done designing our own package, our chocolate bars were ready to be wrapped. After a few minutes of watching our chocolate go through the production line, the chocolate bars were sent to an assembly line where each of our wrappers is matched to the chocolate that we created. At the end of the assembly line assistants then hand-wrapped each chocolate bar and matched our unique bar-coded ticket to our chocolate creation. We were then handed our custom designed chocolate bars to take home 🙂
This is the type of tour I was expecting to see when we came to Hershey’s but on a larger scale. I am guessing this is how they make their chocolate at the real Hershey’s factory.
Though our trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World wasn’t what we had expected, we had an outstanding time here. The unexpected surprises added to the drama and the fun memories we will have of this little excursion outside Philadelphia. How can we not have a good time at a place where all you have is chocolate?
Here is a little bit of information about Milton Hershey, the man who started Hershey’s Chocolate. Milton Hershey was truly ahead of his time. Even in 1903 over 100 years ago when Milton Hershey started his company his forward-thinking work ethics provided employees not just employment, but a community they could be part of. His company provided healthcare, schooling, and community services to all their employees (today many local companies like Google and Facebook are examples of holistic employment here in The Bay Area). Mr. Hershey had an entrepreneurial spirit that made Hershey’s chocolate into a corporate juggernaut. But without a doubt what he left behind are his very generous philanthropic projects that have far reaching benefits, including the Milton Hershey School for underprivileged kids that has over 2000 students today. For a quick and informative read on this fascinating man who started the Hershey’s company, check out this link. FROM HUMBLE TO HERO: MILTON S. HERSHEY 1857-1945
For more information on Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania check out their web site Hershey’s Chocolate World