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Archive for the ‘Hersheypark’ Category

Ho, Ho, Ho! It’s time for Christmas Candylane.

candylane-logo 

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.

Costumed characters greet guests in Lower Rhineland area of Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane.  ca.1990-2000

Costumed characters greet guests in Lower Rhineland area of Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane. ca.1990-2000

 

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.

Launching the sooperdooperLooper

Billboard advertises new ride coming to Hersheypark for the 1977 summer season.

Billboard advertises new ride coming to Hersheypark for the 1977 summer season.

The early years of the newly redesigned Hersheypark were filled with highs and lows. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes had closed the Park for nine days and caused it to suffer significant budget shortfalls. 1973 marked the new Park’s first truly successful season and erased all doubts about the wisdom of redeveloping Hersheypark as a themed amusement park. The energy crisis of 1974 again caused financial challenges and forced the Park to scale back its redevelopment plans. Hersheypark’s success was firmly established a few years later, with the addition of the sooperdooperLooper which marked Hersheypark’s entry into the category of nationally recognized theme parks.

This coaster was the first looping coaster on the East Coast and only the second of its kind in the United States. The new coaster was the park’s most expensive ride at that point, costing more than $3 million. Building a proto-type roller coaster created a major challenge for the Park and presented unbelievable problems. Being a new style ride, the Park would practically re-engineer the ride from the original plans before being satisfied with the ride’s operation. All the bugs had not been worked out by opening day. That day the Park’s General Manager, Bruce McKinney, and his wife Sally boarded the ride car to officially launch the ride. The ride successfully made it through the loop only to only to get stuck on the next rise. Park engineers were unable to get the ride to move and the passengers had to exit the ride by walking down the catwalk, witnessed and documented by news photographers and television cameras.

In spite of such an eventful launch the ride made the Park’s 1977’s season a huge success. Hundreds of thousands of people came to the park that year to ride or simply to watch the new looping roller coaster. The most popular Park souvenir that summer was a T-Shirt with the words “I Survived the sooperdooperLooper.” That year the Park set daily attendance records that still stand as record breaking days to this day. The summer of 1977 would stand as the park’s most successful season for years to come.

Riding the loop of the sooperdooperLooper, ca. 1990-2000

Riding the loop of the sooperdooperLooper, ca. 1990-2000