Hershey: The sweet smell of success permeates town

May 17, 1992|By Marilyn Thorbahn | Marilyn Thorbahn,Contributing Writer

The sweet smell of chocolate, reminiscent of chocolate pudding cooking on the stove, welcomes you as you drive into Hershey, Pa.

Visitors exploring the community are greeted by Hershey Kiss-shaped street lights -- some wrapped and some unwrapped -- and will immediately notice the huge factory that dominates downtown, with the words "Hershey Cocoa" etched into hedges in front as well as the famous intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa avenues.

Billboards proclaim the sights: Hersheypark, the Hotel Hershey, Hershey Gardens and Chocolate World. The name Hershey not only represents chocolate and tourism, however; it is also the name of the genius behind the factory, the product and the community.

It was in this part of Pennsylvania that young Milton Hershey was born and raised. Learning through apprenticeships and business ventures, Hershey began a successful caramel business in nearby Lancaster. In 1900, he sold the business for $1 million.

Hershey turned his money around and built a chocolate factory in the middle of a corn field in Derry Township, where he grew up.

But what made Hershey's business venture special was his interest in employees and the community. This is evident today, as tourists begin to learn about the landmarks they pass while touring the town.

Hershey created a community for the benefit of his employees. He built houses for them to buy or rent, stores, recreational facilities and a bank. A trolley line was constructed for employees who wanted to commute to work from other communities.

He founded the Milton Hershey School for orphaned boys, financing the project with his own funds and providing monies for its continuation after his death in 1945.

Ideally, visitors should allow at least two days for the sights in Hershey. The best place to begin your adventure is at Chocolate World Visitor's Center.

Chocolate World first opened in 1973 as the official visitor's center of Hershey Foods Corp., replacing a tour of the actual chocolate factory, which could no longer accommodate the growing number of tourists.

Guests are invited to ride through a 12-minute, simulated chocolate factory tour, where the process of making chocolate -- from harvesting the cocoa beans to packaging the finished product -- is explained.

Afterward, visitors enter another world of chocolate where they will find such items for sale as "chocolate" T-shirts, hats, Christmas ornaments, pens, bears and of course the real thing -- chocolate candy. Every candy manufactured by Hershey Foods Corp. is on sale here.

Next door are Hersheypark and the Hershey Museum of American Life.

Hersheypark -- originally established in 1907 for chocolate factory employees -- has over the years grown to become a first-class amusement park.

Situated on 87 acres, the park offers 45 rides, including three roller coasters, several water theme rides and a wonderful selection of rides for children.

Theaters present several live entertainment shows throughout the day. Top-name entertainers also perform throughout the summer in the Amphitheatre, free with general admission.

Theme areas include: Tudor Square, reminiscent of 17th century England; Rhine Land, a replica of an 18th century German village; Der Deitschplatz, representing 19th century Pennsylvania; and Carousel Circle, home of the park's antique, hand-carved carousel.

Adjacent to Hersheypark is ZooAmerica, a beautiful zoo featuring the animals of North America.

Grassy Waters area represents the Everglades of Southern Florida. Cactus Community shows how desert animals live. Gentle Woodlands showcases wild turkeys, bobcats and raccoons. Big Sky Country tells the story of the American West. North Woods features animals that survive in the frigid north.

Admission is included with a Hersheypark admission. Separate admission may also be purchased.

Several exhibits depicting different aspects of early American life are on display at the Hershey Museum of American Life. One display highlights the life of Milton Hershey.

A series of galleries portrays Native American life from several regions.

Hershey Gardens is another "must see." The gardens feature seasonal flowering displays, collections of specimen trees and shrubs and theme garden areas.

Guests are given a map of the 23-acre garden, which has 120,000 plants.

While in Hershey, you may want to stay at one of the Hershey-owned accommodations: Hotel Hershey, Hershey Lodge & Convention Center or Hershey Highmeadow Camp.

The Hotel Hershey was completed in 1933. It was the dream of Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine, to build a luxury hotel after the chocolate factory was completed.

Although "Kitty" died in 1915, Hershey continued to make plans for showplace accommodations for guests in his community.

At the height of the Great Depression, Hershey employed more than 600 local construction workers and began what is now called the Great Building Campaign. Other projects included the community theater, stadium and arena.

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