Hershey’s legacy, more than a chocolate bar

By Lisa K. Berton

Milton Hershey was the fifth generation of his family born in Pennsylvania. Before moving to the United States during the 1700s, their Swiss surname was Hirschi. Consider the fact that Hershey's Kisses could or perhaps should be Hirschi's Kisses. A legacy of a different spelling.

For those who enjoy collections, short films, and small museums, The Hershey Story (63 West Chocolate Ave,
Hershey, PA 17033) will fill you in on the chocolatier and philanthropist. Similarly, one can ride the trolley narrated by a tour guide around town. Both are excellent choices and offer different advantages.

Milton's life, like many successful driven entrepreneurs, had highs and lows, including a failed candy shop. As a result, he moved to Denver to reunite with his father. There he learned how to produce caramels from a confectioner. Hershey found himself as a successful caramel maker before chocolate poured into his life.

In light of the fact that Hershey dropped out of school at thirteen years old, it's incredible that providing education to youth became his noble cause. Some stories suggest that Milton and his wife Catherine created a school for orphaned boys because they were unable to have children of their own.

Furthermore, it was almost 30 years after Hershey's passing that the Hershey Industrial School allowed male blacks followed by girls. Another change came when the School opened up to children from low-income families. Presently, the Milton Hershey School is ranked as the number one Most Diverse Private High School in Pennsylvania, according to Niche.

For every Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar (among other candy) purchased, a percentage goes to the Milton Hershey School.

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Long before Walt Disney dreamed of creating EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, Milton Hershey built a working and living community for his employees. But the concept wasn't 100% Milton's either because the Cadbury brothers created Bournville Village in Britain at the turn of the century.

Various planning ideas separated Hershey and Cadbury, one of which was a small zoo. Hershey Zoo opened in 1910 and closed just a few years before Hershey died in 1945. Hershey Zoo later reopened and operated for two decades until theme park plans called for its removal.

With the addition of Hersheypark, a full-fledged amusement park, animals returned to the new ZooAmerica. Patrons can stop and talk to the animals almost every day of the year. Discover inhabitants of North America like the alligator snapping turtle. They are commonly found in small bodies of water in Florida and Louisiana. Enjoy watching black bears wrestle and play from multiple viewing areas. Enter the cave and climb a few steps for a closer look.

Fur and feather residents have outdoor homes that are larger than previously installed at Hershey Zoo. ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Accreditation means the animals are well taken care of and in secure facilities.  ZooAmerica is a small zoo hence appreciated when squeezing as much as possible into a day.

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Hershey Park (pre-Hersheypark) was a place of recreation for his employees before officially opening to the public in 1906. A carousel, bumper cars, fun houses, and a roller coaster joined the original baseball field and swimming pool. So by the late 1920s, Hershey Park was a small amusement park with watercraft facilities. Fewer than half a dozen rides were added between 1930 and Milton Hershey's death in 1945.

In the early 1970s, Hershey Park went under a meticulous redesign and was rebranded Hersheypark, as it is known today. Sitting on over 100 acres, Hersheypark offers family-friendly attractions, games, headliner concerts, and thrill rides from early April thru mid-September. Chocolate lovers can meet and take photographs with characters.

Discounted tickets are available online pre-season opening. Modern day technology allows visitors to plan ahead and view wait times with the theme park's app.

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Milton Hershey recognized that his success and wealth exceeded his expectations. He planned to school children as long as possible by donating the majority of his company shares and setting up a trust fund. Ultimately, the plan was to have all of his endeavors feed, clothe, house, and educate orphans. The Hershey Trust currently owns Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company. As a result of his philanthropy and like-minded individuals within the organization, his vision lives on.

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Free Time Journal participated in Media Days hosted by Visit Hershey and Harrisburg. Admission tickets were provided but did not affect this article.

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