Every year in mid-November Hersheypark is transformed into a Christmas wonderland. Decorated with millions of lights, the park offers a chance to visit Santa and his reindeer, musical performances and holiday themed amusement rides.
The idea for Hersheypark Candylane grew out of the park’s desire to expand their season. The concept was first proposed in 1976. Paul Serff, retired Hersheypark General Manager, recalled in his oral history interview the impetus for the new attraction:
We had for a number of years been working on trying things to (a) expand the season, if we could find ways of generating revenue. We had an asset that was laying fallow a good portion of the year–the park–we, park management. So we tried to (a) extend the season and find new and better ways of using those assets. There was a fair amount of interest in doing it from a corporate level also, because a lot of the hotel business, in particular, was very slow. It’s a very slow convention time. So they were looking at ways to build up things in town.
The original vision for Candylane was to create a European style Christmas village. The goals were to extend the park season and produce additional income for the Park. The proposers envisioned creating a unique environment and attraction in Central Pennsylvania. The attraction would offer handmade merchandise, using local artisans and crafts vendors. Entertainment would involve strolling carolers, storytellers and appearances by the Furry Tales. Area choirs would give concerts at the Light Arcade. Food would be limited. Drawing on the European theme, the Park planned for the food to be ethnic, supplied by area ethnic organizations, and be a limited menu of not meals but rather breads, pastries, candies, etc. Of course visits with Santa would be a major attraction. It launched on November 25, 1983 (the day after Thanksgiving).
Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane expanded slowly over the years. Hersheypark remained committed to its new attraction even after suffering through years when bad weather greatly reduced attendance.
Today Hersheypark Candylane is part of a community wide Christmas in Hershey celebration that begins in mid-November and concludes on New Year’s day.