Hershey Park

When I studied in Pittsburgh, I had heard of Hershey Park in eastern Pennsylvania. I had always wondered what a theme park looked like in America. This early summer my dream finally came true. I went with family to Hershey Park—my first theme park experience in America.

We were greeted with a parking lot so gigantic that we had to walk a mile or so to the entrance. That was quite different from the theme parks in China, where visitors can usually get to the door by public transportation. I was disoriented in the parking lot until I got a map at the entrance. From carousel to roller coasters, every game is marked in the map by numbers subject to its risk levels. I was amazed how the architects pack more than 60 rides together with a water world and a zoo in such a confined space. The high roller coaster tracks crisscross the low ones, circling the perimeter of the park. From every corner in the park, you can hear shrilling cries from the cars zipping by on these rides, haunting the farming country nearby.

Hershey is a town of tourism. The local businesses seem to be all related to the chocolate empire—even the street lamps on the Chocolate Avenue are in the shape of Hershey Kisses! I didn’t have the guts to take on the head-spinning-adrenaline-rushing rides, nor did I want to get wet in the pool. Sounds like I’m pretty dull, aren’t I? I thought so and didn’t expect to get much on this trip. But it turns out the trip to Hershey, PA is as much for education as it is for fun. The history of a town is always fascinating. Built on the vision of Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, that his workers ought to live well in a complete community around his factory site, Hershey Park has been a favorite recreational venue.

American entrepreneurship is much more mature than that of China. Or I should say the legacies of the private enterprises are better kept in America. An old Chinese saying says, it’s easier to start a business than to keep one. In the long river of Chinese history, there were once many domestic entrepreneurs in China at the turn of the 20th century, at the same period of the Second Industrial Revolution in the West. However, their legacies can only be found in historic records in China today. Few of them exist at a physical site like the town of Hershey in modern days. In the backdrop of rapid construction all over China, the historic enterprises will be forgotten, replaced by new models of business.

If it were not because of the preservation and expansion of the Hershey legacy—from the amusement park to the factory, from the museum to the botanical gardens, from the hotel to the boarding school, I wouldn’t have known how Hershey chocolates were manufactured, how Hershey Kisses got their names, how Reese’s peanut butter cups joined the Hershey chocolate family, and how modern people continue the philanthropic mission of the corporation by providing Americans and foreigners like me with education, recreation and tons of fun.


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America