July 5 + 6: Mmmm…

“Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it in dew
Cover it in chocolate
and a miracle or two?

The candyman
The candyman can
The candyman can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good”
~”Candyman Can” — Sammy Davis Jr., or that dude in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

[LOTS of new pictures up!!]

I felt kind of like Charlie when we pulled into downtown Hershey with it’s Hershey’s Kiss shaped street lamps and street names like “Cocoa” and “Chocolate.” Unfortunately, the Hershey factory wasn’t quite as impressive as Wonka’s and neither Gene Wilder nor Johnny Depp were standing out front. I was a little disappointed, but that didn’t hamper my spirits any.

We got into town late yesterday afternoon and decided to grab a quick dinner at a local diner before riding around the downtown area to get our bearings. I found out later that Hershey actually built the town around his chocolate factory (I had been wondering which came first, the town or the chocolate). It’s a sweet little town (haha, get it?) with a old style downtown area and a nice little park on the right side of the road. It has a community center and a full Broadway-style theater.

Hershey was really adamant about building a wholesome and fun town around his factory. He basically built and planned the town himself and most of his buildings are still there. He set up the churches, some houses and even the schools, one of which he set up for orphan boys — Hershey Industrial School — after he found out that he and his wife couldn’t have kids. It sounds like this guy was pretty cool, and I hope more filthy rich people take his example and really invest a lot into the people in the community. He basically left his life savings and a large portion of the stock from his company to a fund that supports the Hershey Industrial School and some other things in town. I guess you have more perspective and respect for the little people when your candy business fails four or five times like his did.

Anyway, this morning we got up and headed over to the main attractions area of Hershey, just a few blocks from downtown. The main attraction there is Hersheypark, which Hershey set up as a place for his workers to relax and enjoy themselves on days off. What started out as a nice relaxing park has turned into a full-fledged amusement park complete with 11 roller coasters and a $40 entrance fee. We decided to skip that part and instead focus on Hershey’s Chocolate World and the Hershey Museum.

Hershey’s Chocolate World is an awesome little building right beside Hersheypark. Inside it has a free Hershey Factory Tour ride that we went on first. We jumped on a little car that rode us around a simulated factory and told us how the chocolate is made. It wasn’t quite as cool as touring the real factory — which apparently they don’t do anymore — but it had singing cows and free candy at the end. One of the cows was named Gabby (one of Madison’s friends), so we got a good laugh out of that!

They also have an area called the chocolate factory works where you can personalize chocolate. Either you can make the kisses yourself, personalize a bag of candy with whatever you want, or personalize the wrapping of a Hershey Bar or Hershey Kiss. We got to have some fun with that.

There is a trolley ride that rides around the town and gives some of the history of the area and its founder. We figured it would be the best and quickest way to learn, so we got a ticket. We weren’t quite sure what they meant by sing-a-longs, but we figured it couldn’t be too bad.

All of the conductors on the trolley young, over-caffeinated people that took a lot of drama classes in high school. They were over the top and goofy, almost like clowns, but they were still pretty funny. When we got on the trolley we found a song sheet sitting on the bench.

Our main conductor was a cool little girl named Rachel. She was later joined by “Wilbur” the “new guy” on the staff who was just a little bit on the slow side. They played off each other pretty well and were a lot of fun to watch. It was definitely aimed at kids, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Maybe that says something about my sense of humor, but I’m not ashamed. We rode past the factory a few times. Every time we did, they would say “THE WORLD’S LARGEST CHOCOLATE FACTORY!!” and we had to cheer. Good times.

When we were getting ready to ride up to Hershey’s house, “Wilbur” claimed that he forgot his camera and had to go back an get it, so he ran off the bus. Rachel led us through some stuff, showing us the mansion and the grounds around it. Of course, the guy playing Wilbur kept popping up at different points on the bus acting like different characters: Hershey’s parents, a student at the Industrial school and a soldier just getting back from World War II. He was mostly there for comic relief as Rachel expertly led us around the Hershey homestead (where he was born), the Industrial School grounds, and the Hershey Gardens. It’s a beautiful little area, and I wouldn’t mind living in a town like that. Especially because of all the candy!

Every once in a while, one of the characters that got on the bus would pass around candy, which was pretty sweet. Even more often, we would get to sing a song. We were encouraged to sing along, which most people surprisingly did. We sang “A Bicycle Built For Two,” “You are my Sunshine,” and a few others that I’ve forgotten. Wilbur and Rachel showed us all up with their amazing voices and harmonies. I was really impressed with their singing, especially because it was a cappella on a moving trolley.

When we finished the tour, we decided to head over to the Hershey Museum. It wasn’t as much fun as the Chocolate World, but it had some good information in there and interesting little exhibits. They had a lot of places where you could put on factory uniforms and Native American clothing (they had a Native American exhibit because Hershey started a Native American museum in the town), so Madison was our guinea pig. (Check out the pictures)

I think by then we were all chocolated out, so we grabbed some lunch, left Hershey, and made the one-hour drive to Gettysburg in the afternoon. After getting checked in, we got some dinner at the Lincoln Diner and are now back in the rooms to rest up for tomorrow.

We’ll be touring the battlefield and learning all the history tomorrow. Unfortunately we missed the reenactment that they were doing over the past three days. We’ve seen lots of people walking around in Civil War dress and even a few trucks carrying canons.

After we finish touring Gettysburg, we will be heading on to Philadelphia since it’s only a two hour drive. We’ll probably end up spending one or two nights there.

Only two stops left!

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