This entire year is a party as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hershey’s Chocolate World. We kicked off the celebrations in February, unveiling a 1,000-pound Hershey's Chocolate World chocolate replica. In May, we opened a new train-themed attraction, HERSHEY'S Great Candy Expedition, that enables audiences to choose their own itinerary and travel through fully immersive lands designed around favorite Hershey brands. And on June 30, we’re hosting a 50th Birthday Block Party Bash, complete with live music, character parades, games, food and a “sparktacular” nighttime extravaganza.
Between all of these wonderful celebrations, I’ve been taking time to reflect on how Hershey’s Chocolate World got here and what it means to our company, our consumers and our community. Hershey's Chocolate World is a stage where Hershey can showcase our brands' most creative and beautiful aspects while making memories with an audience of our biggest fans. It’s been the backdrop to special family moments for generations. I love it when people tell me stories about how they came to Hershey's Chocolate World with their grandparents and now bring their own grandchildren, about their first date at Hershey's Chocolate World or how they got engaged here.
Our founder understood the power of experience. When Milton Hershey launched his chocolate company more than 125 years ago, he soon opened the downtown Hershey factory to the public and invited people to visit his modern manufacturing marvel. Crowds grew to more than 2 million guests a year, and in the early 1970s, company leaders envisioned a dedicated space for visitors away from the manufacturing floor. We partnered with the entity that is now Hershey Entertainment & Resorts to build a corporate visitor center outside the entrance to Hersheypark. Hershey's Chocolate World opened to the public on June 30, 1973.
Of course, to anyone who’s been to Hershey’s Chocolate World, it’s so much more than a corporate visitor center. It has become a rite of passage for our brands’ biggest fans, where they write their own Hershey story. Whether they’re peeking into the manufacturing process on the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour Ride, donning a hairnet and apron to make their own candy bar, or wandering by an actual cacao tree, a visit to Chocolate World is a moment of goodness like none other.
From a business perspective, Hershey's Chocolate World is priceless. It’s a place where we test new products and retail concepts, including seasonal merchandising and queuing systems. When our retail partners visit, we showcase our design and display ideas. When consumers visit, we listen to what they love and don’t love about our products. And when community members visit, we thank them for their support by hosting Halloween trick-or-treat trails, sensory-friendly nights, and welcoming community groups, like Susquehanna Service Dogs, for unique training opportunities.
To date, more than 117 million guests have visited Hershey’s Chocolate World. On a given weekend in the summer, we’ll welcome over 30,000 people in a single day. Every year, we see more visitors than the White House. That’s an honor and a privilege that we don’t take lightly. When people come to Hershey's Chocolate World, they give us their most precious resource: the time they have with their families. As a consumer packaged goods company, it’s a rare and beautiful thing to be able to interact with the people we serve. It gives us joy and it inspires us all. Because we know that a brand lives in consumers’ heads and hearts, creating wonderful, sweet moments, whether it’s the red, green and silver KISSES in your Christmas stocking or your first backyard campout with s’mores.
When I think about our 50th anniversary, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to all of the people who have allowed us to be a part of their lives. Hershey's Chocolate World is the stage where we can be a part of their moments of goodness, both as they relive those memories and as they make more.
To see our 50 favorite moments from 50 years of Hershey’s Chocolate World, view our scrapbook here.
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