Saturday, May 3, 2008

Willy Wonka's Favorite Vacation Spot

Even Willy Wonka would love to vacation in Lititz, PA, home of the world famous Wilbur Chocolate Factory and Candy Americana Museum. From almost anywhere in town, you can catch the smell of chocolate wafting through the air. It's a candy lover's paradise. Where Hershey Chocolate has gone "theme park" and moved part of their operations oversees over the years, Wilbur keeps true to its candy roots, turning out, according to the Amish Country News, "100 million pounds of chocolate products a year" and furnishing product to America's largest and best known food processors. I have friends and family in the area who say it's the best chocolate in the world. Who am I to argue? The factory is a short walk away from the country's first hard pretzel factory and both are in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish, Mennonite, Quaker, Brethren) Country. So a stop in and around Lititz will provide a veritable plethora of fun and educational adventures and opportunities.

The museum displays hundreds, if not thousands, of cocoa tins, antique candy molds and holiday novelties, along with original art work and photographs, candy making equipment and other items of interest to the company and the area. There is an "area" of candy making open to the public, but not the entire factory. Still we had a great visit, enjoyed some excellent samples and got to talk with some of the candy makers.

One of the companies first products back in the 1860's was hard candy which was made for the train boys to sell on the trains (the tracks run right by the factory- the old station is now the information center). They still crank it out today.

We spent quite a while talking with candy specialty maker Kathy Blankenbiller. It is always so wonderful to speak with a person who loves her job. The excitement and enthusiasm they have for their work reflects well not only on themselves but on the company as well, and for sure Kathy is one talented girl! Her one of a kind creations are something to behold (if not eat).

In the photo above of the ice cream sundae, everything is some form of chocolate and completely edible. Same is true of the mask, fruit, eggs, coins in the photo below...

and in this nearly life size sowing basket below. Even looking at it close up, you could not be sure it wasn't the real thing. Amazing work!
All of these "works of art" are behind the sanitary glass half wall that separates the product from the public. Good thing! I didn't have to worry about whether or not Marilyn was going to lick the goodies...

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