2009-09-24 / Local & State

Chocolate Part Of The Multimedia At New PA Museum


HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) - The Hershey Story, a new museum that unwraps the life and times of candy magnate Milton S. Hershey, also takes some new and delicious spins on chocolate.

What could be new to a nation of chocolate lovers who've been devouring Hershey's chocolate bars practically since birth?

Visit the museum's location on West Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, about 10 miles east of Harrisburg, and you can sip your way through a ''Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting'' ($9.95) in the museum's Cafe Zooka. The experience of drinking the warm chocolates from six of the world's finest cocoa-growing regions leaves wine tastings in the dust when it comes to rich and affordable indulgences.

Conducting a little "research'' in the museum's Chocolate Lab ($10 for adults; $7.50 for children ages 4 to 12; younger children are not permitted in the lab) and making your own candy bar is a treat, too. If you want to attend a 45-minute Chocolate Lab session, arrive early to select the class you want to attend or call ahead on the day you plan to visit and reserve a space using your credit card. At the end of the 45- minute lab, the candy bar is yours to take home, but fat chance it'll make it that far!

You can do these somewhat pricey add-on chocolate activities without visiting the Museum Experience of The Hershey Story (another $10). But you'd be better off buying a combination ticket ($17.50 for adults; $14 for kids) for the Museum Experience and The Chocolate Lab.

Immersing yourself in the story of chocolate and how Milton Hershey changed it from a high-priced pleasure for the rich to an everyday treat for the masses is one delicious way to experience history.

After exploring the museum and completing a lab session, indulging in the tasting of warm drinking chocolates provides a smooth ending to the entire visit. If you can afford only one tasting, it's OK to share it.

The Hershey Story, combined with a visit to nearby Hershey's Chocolate World _ a free shuttle runs between the two locations every 15 minutes _ makes a great day trip. From Labor Day to Dec. 31, the museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except for closings on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, while Hershey's Chocolate World is open daily from 9 a.m. to at least 5 p.m., closing later on weekends or during holiday periods.

If you've got the time and the money, make it a weekend with visits to Hersheypark and Hershey Gardens. Through Oct. 15, a coupon on the museum's Web site offers admission to the Hershey Gardens free with admission to the museum, or vice versa.

Fittingly, Hershey's story, woven through the museum's four major exhibits, is one sweet tale: rags to riches ... a classic American success story. But there's a wonderful twist.

As Hershey rose from nothing, weathered two bankruptcies and then became a multimillionaire, he gave away his fortune twice.

But that's not all. He encouraged his employees to be innovative and believed that if they were happy, they'd be better employees. He built a different kind of company town _ Hershey _ in a time when most were constructed to rip off employees. Many amenities in Hershey, from its green recreational spaces to its trolley line, were intended to keep chocolate factory workers happy.

He and his wife could not have children. But Hershey devoted his fortunes to making life better for children, by founding what is now the Milton Hershey School and by making large donations to the town's public schools.

Hershey, who died in 1945, stands in stark contrast to other late 19th and early 20th century industrialists who used ruthless tactics to make their millions and keep their fortunes.

The exhibits illustrating chapters in Hershey's story, on the second floor of the museum, are highlighted by interactive activities.

One enables visitors to create a personalized newspaper page, inspired by Hershey's experience as a 14-year-old apprentice to a newspaper editor. He got himself fired by inserting his hat into the printing press. The page, which can be e-mailed home, will include your photo on the front page and your name in the headline of a classic story concerning Hershey or his company.

While describing Hershey's work to develop a recipe for milk chocolate and establish assembly lines to produce it, the ''Sweet Innovations Exhibit'' also enables visitors to set up a manufacturing line for Hershey's Kisses on a computer's touch screen. A Kiss-wrapping machine, created by Hershey employees in the 1920s and used for the rest of the century, is the backdrop for this activity. When you're through, push the button that's nearby and you'll think you're hearing the giant machine leap back into production. It rumbles and clatters, as if it is still wrapping 125 kisses a minute.

Milton Hershey, who realized the value of advertising, promoted his products and his town whenever and wherever he could. In the ''Power of Promotion'' exhibit, visitors get to see beautifully colored and crafted signs, candy wrappers and cocoa tins, as well as trade cards that were enclosed in the wrappers of candy bars.

But the most fun of all is designing your own wrapper for a Hershey's chocolate bar, right down to giving it a flowery border and a wild background color to replace its usual shade of chocolate brown. When you're finished, you can e-mail the design home, print it in color and cut out your wrapper that will fit right over a Hershey's chocolate bar.

In the ''Hershey Builds Hershey'' portion of the museum, visitors can zero in on Chocolatetown's most historic buildings and get an insider's look at places including High Point - Hershey's mansion - as well as his chocolate factory, the rival Reese's Peanut Butter Cup factory and more. Audio and artifact photos enrich the layout.

The Hershey Store in the museum offers "The Official M. S. Hershey Apprentice Guide'' ($3) filled with supplemental activities for kids touring the Museum Experience. It rewards them with tokens including Milton Hershey's first business card and a souvenir gold coin for finishing the guide.

After you've viewed the Museum Experience on the second floor and visited the first-floor Cafe Zooka for snacks or a tasting tray of drinking chocolates, spend a little time in the Grand Lobby.

Look upward to see arches and woodwork deliberately styled after the structure of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Milton Hershey had the "Aha!'' moment of his life while attending the event. A highly successful caramel-maker at the time, Hershey realized chocolate was "the'' future. He purchased all of the exposition's chocolatemaking equipment and had it shipped home for his new chocolate factory.

Make the "Community Builder Mural'' your last stop. Painted using a special technique that yields a 3-D effect, Milton Hershey is the focal point of the art. Seated on the steps of his homestead, he is surrounded by children representing those from the Milton Hershey School and Hershey's public schools whose lives have been touched by his generosity.

The lifelike mural already has become a favorite place to take family pictures. Visitors strike poses that make them look as though they're a part of the painting, while friends or relatives capture the moment with their cameras.

But whether or not you're packing a camera, the mural is enough to make you wonder just how Milton Hershey would feel if he could return to the "Sweetest Place on Earth.''

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