Archive for the ‘Factory Tours’ Category

The Year Long Adventure has provided our family with many new opportunities.  One of the things we have really enjoyed is taking factory tours and learning how things are made.  On Leg 2, we toured Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in Vermont and Herr’s Snack Foods in Pennsylvania (You can relive these adventures here and here).  Leg 5 led us to St. Joe, Indiana, and a tour of the Sechler’s Pickle Factory.  Our 9-year old daughter is a big fan of pickles, and our research told us that this was the only factory tour of a pickle plant in the United States.

Ralph Sechler started working in the pickle business in 1914, and by 1921, he and his wife were making and selling pickles out of their home in St. Joe.  Today Sechler’s makes over 40 varieties of pickles, relishes, and specialty items.  The company offers free tours of their factory, and they show guests their process for making and packaging their products.

Sechler's original home

Sechler's current factory complex

The tour was very interesting, and one of the things that amazed us was the amount of sugar needed to make sweet pickles and relish.  It was fun to watch the complex machinery needed to turn a cucumber into a pickle ready for shipment to stores.  Unfortunately, no pictures or video were allowed inside the factory, so you’ll have to trust us or schedule a visit to Indiana.

After our walk through the factory, we were able to dive into Sechler’s tasting table and sample some of their delicious products.  We ended our tour by taking a family picture with a giant pickle.  Good times.

Yes, we got to keep the hats.

St. Joe, Indiana, is also the home of the annual St. Joe Pickle Festival.  This annual celebration, held every year in August, includes events like the decorated Pickle People contest, Pickle Derby, and the Pickle Pepper Poker Walk.  Who knew pickles could be so much fun?

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We awoke in our palatial hotel room at the Wingate by Wyndham with grand plans to go into Philadelphia and visit all of the historical sites.  A quick look out the window into the pouring rain led to a change of plans that included only indoor activities.

Our first stop of the day was in Nottingham, PA, for the Herr’s Foods Snack Factory Tour.  Herr Foods started in 1946 when James Herr bought a truck and three iron pots for cooking potato chips for $1750.  From these humble beginnings, Herr’s has grown into a major enterprise, selling over 340 different snack food items in 20 states.

The factory tour led us through all phases of their chip and pretzel making processes and was really cool.  The machinery used to make chips and other snacks on such a grand scale was amazing.  Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, so you’ll have to take our word for it.  The best part of the tour was getting to sample warm potato chips that had just come of the line on their way headed to the bagging stations.

Our second indoor stop of the day led us to New Castle, Delaware, and Bowlerama.  The family bowled two games (luckily we paid by the game and not by the hour because we bowl VERY slowly), and everyone had a grand time.

Thanks to a little iPhone research we found our dining venue for the evening.  We headed to a nearby mall in Delaware that had another Cheesecake Factory.  Two nights in a row at the same restaurant is no problem for this group, especially when cheesecake is involved.

Despite the rain, we had a great, fun-filled day!

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On Friday we visited the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.  This place is what many children think heaven will be.  Their website correctly touts it as “an exciting, hands-on, welcoming place to play, learn, and dream; a place to pretend, wonder, and explore; a place to discover the past and imagine the future; and a place to rekindle memories and make new ones.”

Giant marble run across ceiling

We were there for more than 5 hours, and our kids (ages 4, 8, and 11) would have stayed much longer.  At first we worried that the museum would be too “young” for our older kids, but we were wrong!  There were activities and exhibits appropriate for all ages.  Some areas involved exploring different scientific principles (a giant marble run on the ceiling), while other areas (like a post office and pirate ship) facilitated pretending and role play.  They really enjoyed all of the hands-on activities, and we did not get to experience everything in the time that we were there.  Mom and Dad had fun too and were wishing a place like this existed when we were kids!

A favorite area was the Hall of Superheroes.  Through the magic of trick photography, the kids were able to see themselves scaling a building like Spiderman.  The girls  had a great time experimenting with different poses to achieve the best effect.

Hall of Superheroes trick photography. This...

... becomes this! Spiderman, look out!

You should definitely make plans to attend if you ever find yourself in Rochester with kids.  Check our Facebook page for more pictures of the whole family having fun at this amazing museum.

Two days later we found ourselves in Waterbury, Vermont, and Mom was psyched because we would be going to a place that she sees in HER dreams.  We took the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour at their headquarters.  Even the pouring rain did not dampen our enthusiasm.  The tour starts with a humorous short film explaining the history and philosophy of Ben & Jerry’s, and then takes you on a catwalk above the processing plant to show you the process for making ice cream.  All of the machines have very technical names like “chunk adder” and “swirl maker”.  The best part of the tour was the Flavoroom where each of the guests was given a free sample of the new 2010 flavor “Milk & Cookies”.

Interesting fact – Ben & Jerry got into the ice cream business after taking a $5 Correspondence Course on “How to Make Ice Cream” back in the 1970s.  That was $5 well spent.  The only thing that would have made the morning better for Mom would have been if were given free samples of Chunky Monkey. Luckily we were able to buy her a scoop in the Scoop Shop on site.

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