We arrived at HerseyPark Camping Resort after our Route 11 day of adventures. Hersey was hit last week by extreme flooding, which forced park and campground closures. Parts of the campground were still closed, but our site wasn’t impacted. We backed up to a cornfield and it was a beautiful view. The campground is spacious, with three pools (chilly, since new water since the flood), a fun playground and lots of sites and cabins. There is a bus that goes to HerseyPark and Chocolate World, where then other buses transport to Hersey Gardens, and the Hersey Hotel.
Over spring break we went to Busch Gardens and decided although amusement parks are fun, we would use our time to visit Chocolate World rather than HerseyPark.
Brady read an autobiography on Milton Hersey, loves learning about production, and combined with his love for anything chocolate, Chocolate World was truly the sweetest place on earth!
Our first experience was making our own candy bar, where the process was automated with touch screens. It was exciting to watch our candy bars being made. We could choose the type of chocolate (dark or milk), up to 3 inserts (semi-sweet chips, crispy rice, toffee, cookie, or pretzels), plus sprinkles.
The chocolate bar then cooled to 50 degrees and we we each customized our own packaging.
We then experienced our first chocolate tasting. We learned about cocoa beans and their texture and how to sample differently in order to taste the underlying flavors. We found the ground cocoa beans themselves were a nutty and tasty! We also visited a cute 4-D movie about the Hersey family, “Kiss,” “Reece,” “Hersey,” and “JR” (Jolly Rancher), saving production from being overtaken by a “sour man.” And, of course in Hersey, sweet wins. The kids had chocolate for both breakfast and lunch, as everywhere we went, we received candy! When it’s the sweetest place on earth, it’s not worth the argument.
Production and Milton Hersey
There is a free train ride that does a great job explaining the chocolate production process, which we rode twice because the kids loved it so much.
Then, we went on the historic trolley tour, which was one of our favorites.
Milton Hersey was a remarkable man. He failed three times in starting a candy business. And, each time he learned valuable lessons that helped him grow. One of the most important lessons in his chocolate success was using fresh milk when making caramel, in order to make the candy more chewy. He experimented with cocoa, and ended up with chocolate.
Although the majority of the original production sites were demolished a few years ago, downtown Hersey still has kiss light poles, still produces kisses, and is deep in chocolate history.
But, what was most remarkable about Milton Hersey was his heart and understanding that the true definition of success is serving others. He learned this early by investing in his employees, through making recreational areas for them to spend time with their families, and creating Hersey Hotel and doubling employment during the Great Depression. He and his wife Catherine never had children and he was determined to provided orphaned kids with the stability and educational opportunities, he didn’t have. He created the Hersey School trust, initially valued in the early 1900’s at $1MM, and now exceeds nearly $12 BILLION dollars. It is one of the largest trust funds in the nation, and houses and educates 2000 students per year. If children continue onto college, this too is covered, up to $95k. Eighty seven of percent of last year’s graduating class went onto college, and 3% went into the military.
Amazing results for kids who likely would have fallen through the cracks. Milton Hersey did so much for his city and was heart broken, when the love of his life, died at 42 from a debilitating nerve disease.
We were grateful for his life example and talked with the kids about the way in which Milton lived a life of purpose, and that chocolate success wasn’t his legacy, it was serving others.
After inhaling chocolate, we had a late lunch at the Hersey Hotel.
And, we wrapped up our day with a bike ride, and a family tasting of our chocolate bars. After the taste test, Brady would change his to dark chocolate and and add pretzels pieces. Piper would keep hers the same, but add crispy rice.
Although Hersey is developed, and a tourist destination, it is still rural and beautiful.
And, yes that is chocolate, not a cigar in Steven’s mouth!
And last, I am thankful to be on this life journey with Steven. He always takes care of us, thinks about the details, double checks the camper when aren’t aware, and drives us safely.
Wheels up to Boston and a FULL day of driving!