Easter is just around the corner, so I’ll say happy Easter. With the holiday comes brunch and formal family church outings. Also, it’s another opportunity for children to receive more than their fair share of candy.
All and all, it’s seriousness and fun wrapped into one. It always felt awkward to me as a child, as the day included a sermon on Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection followed by an Easter basket hunt. Although, a basket full of candy, to celebrate the most significant event in Christianity, is not out of bounds.
So, with this blog leading into Easter Sunday, I chose someplace that reflected the fun of the holiday. It really wasn’t hard to find the spot. In fact, I had this place lined up for over a year but didn’t visit sooner because of the lengthy drive. It’s a tour of the Jelly Belly facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
To be honest, I was somewhat charmed and disappointed when I visited the Jelly Belly warehouse. The main reason I was disappointed, I suffered from a lack of research…It’s not a factory it’s a warehouse. I was hoping for Jelly Belly to go full on Willy Wonka, imagining myself being carried away in a chocolate river. Alright, in all seriousness, I was hoping to spy the machinery that created their gourmet Jellybeans. It wasn’t what I was anticipating, yet, it has its merits, especially for the imaginative mind of a child.
It’s a blustery, sunny Friday and we’ve arrived at Pleasant Prairie, a town about forty miles south of Milwaukee. I’m delighted when I first set eyes on the large structure on Jelly Belly Lane. When we ease into the parking lot, we discover two entrances. One entrance is for the Jelly Belly tour, the other leads to the gift shop and candy store.
We snap some photos in front of the Jelly Belly store and head over towards the tour entrance. When we pass through the glass doors, a woman greets us and informs us that, ‘The next tour begins in twenty minutes.’ So, we decide to check out the Jelly Belly store.
For those of you who don’t know, the Jelly Belly company produces gourmet jellybeans. The bean flavors range from delicious to disgusting, with concoctions such as buttered popcorn and vomit. All tolled, there are one hundred different flavors to sink your teeth into.
We eagerly bound through the glass doors and our eyes are delighted, as our mouths are watering. Giant replica jelly beans hang from the ceiling, giving this candy store a novel appeal. Along the back, dispensers provide a chance to stock up on your favorite Jelly Belly flavor. There’s also cool gift shop Items on sale for reasonable prices.
The store includes a lot of cool nick-knacks, things like giant Jelly Belly pencils, cute T’s and sweatshirts, key chains and refrigerator magnets. You know, standard gift shop stuff. Yet, it also includes candy, and lots of it. From Jelly Belly jelly beans to chocolate Harry Potter wands, the allure of the novelties begs a purchase.
We hold off on buying anything for the time being and decide to go back to the tour entrance. Heidi and I arrive and find parents with their young children. The children are naturally fussing, waiting in line tends to do that to an energetic youth. We are greeted by our tour guide and are off to ride the Jelly Belly train. First, however, being a health code requirement, we’re given these funky hats.
The train is quite unique with plenty of cars, each fitted with a Bluetooth speaker. Sorry, their isn’t a track, just four wheels for every car. I think the speakers I mentioned are Bluetooth, because the guide can be heard through them via a headset. This actually works against the guide, who is both your host and the train driver, a little later on.
The tour is actually a lap around the warehouse, with stops at stations boasting a set of TV’s. The trail we follow is fitted with cartoon like characters, clothes made of Jelly Belly wrappers and idle equipment for the jelly bean making process.
We learn about Jelly Belly’s history, as it is a sixth generation family owned candy company. There are three different factories that create the Iconic jellybean, two in the US and one abroad. That’s pretty impressive.
You know what’s more impressive? Remember the fussing children I mentioned? I don’t hear a peep from the kiddos. They’re enthralled with the bright and fun adornments that surround them.
Of course, with the help of the stations equipped with televisions, I learn how a jellybean is made.
As for the guide, I really can’t understand him and he runs into something. That’s right, he hit something along the wall and couldn’t move any further. It’s a slight delay in which curse words, spoken under the train conductor’s breath, emanate from our speakers. I don’t think the children caught them, but I have a good chuckle.
That being said, it’s a decent experience. After the guide parks the train, without further incident, we climb out. We head back to the candy store from the warehouse and are handed a bag of Jelly Bellies.
After all is said and done, I’m not angry I made the journey. The store is definitely something to see and the tour is suitable for young families. Of course I didn’t mention the best part. The tour is totally free. So, If you’re heading towards Chicago or Milwaukee on I-94, and have some time to kill, I suggest checking it out.