Hersheypark Celebrates 112th Birthday

Joshua Gearhart, Reporter

After 112 years it is still going strong.

This summer Hersheypark will celebrate its 112th birthday on May 30, 2018. Hersheypark did not start as an amusement park, but instead it was a community park when it opened on May 30, 1906.

According to the Hershey Historical Society, “Milton Hershey recognized that opportunities for recreation would be critical to the success of his planned model town. As he laid out his model industrial town, Milton Hershey set aside 150 acres of land for a park.”

The Hershey Historical society also noted that “The land was located to the north of the town and chocolate factory. Hershey Park was developed while the chocolate factory was under construction. Plans for the original park were modest.”

Jennifer Henderson, a Hershey Historian, said, “the original park site featured Spring Creek, which meandered through the park. Hershey Park was beautifully landscaped and offered extensive walking paths throughout.”  

A large structure was built in 1904 to provide space for entertainment, including dancing and roller skating, even before the park officially opened.

Jennifer Henderson said, “Hersheypark’s first ride was a carousel which was installed in 1908.”

The park has evolved over time.  According to Henderson,“You can split it up into four major time frames. The park began as a community park. Spring Creek ran through it, and park goers could boat on the creek.”

Later the park was focused on adding amusements.  This began in 1923 with the installation of the Wildcat roller coaster.  Henderson also said the oldest roller coaster still in the park today is the Comet which was installed in 1946.

The next major change came in 1971.  Hersheypark began to charge admission. Previously visitors would just buy a ticket for a ride. “The themed areas also developed in the 1970 time frame as well,” said Henderson.

The most recent of the four phases of Hersheypark started in 2007. “With the addition of the Boardwalk,” Henderson said, “Hersheypark then became a water amusement park too.”

Nancy Chango, a lifetime Hershey resident, said, “I loved meeting my friends there. It was mainly a place to meet back then, and we did not have a lot of money then so we did not pay the 5 cent fee to ride the rides.”

Today park goers pay admission at the gate, which can vary by entrance time; however, the regular price is $66.95 a day or $170 for a season pass.

Chango also said, “the evolution of the park is a night and day change. The park was a welcoming invitation for all the people in the town to get together for free. The park had entertainment, fun rides, and games and food, but that is if you had money to spend. The best thing was that the park was very safe.”

The park today consists of 13 roller coasters and the brand new water rides, not to mention Zoo America and Hershey’s Chocolate World. Hersheypark has evolved dramatically since its early years.

Ellen Crowther, a security guard at the park for the past 12 years, said that “the park does plan to expand its land and continue to evolve as a theme park.”

Hershey Park is a tourist destination, and Crowther said that “the park is busiest at the end of July and the month of August.”

Henderson sums it up best when she says, “Milton Hershey definitely left behind an inspiring legacy. He was an inventor, so his interest in trying things out and the fact that he was never afraid of failure, made him such a successful businessman. What he has also done to Milton Hershey students is incredible, and that fact that he has established this community is incredible.

Henderson notes that Hersheypark is symbolic of Milton Hershey’s legacy. “He was an inventor, so his interest in trying things out and the fact that he was never afraid of failure, made him such a successful businessman,” said Henderson.  But Hershey also wanted a pleasant town for his workers to live in.

“Other model industry towns have not had such great conditions, so they way he cared for his community is inspirational,” Henderson said, “It’s a pretty awesome little town, and Hershey Park is a pretty awesome park.”

Pictured are visitors walking through Hersheypark and the Merry-Go-Round in 1916. The Merry-Go-Round and Miniature Trolley were popular rides at this time. (dfirecop/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Pictured is an overview of Hersheypark taken on April 26th, 2018. The wooden roller coaster pictured at bottom is the Wildcat, a newer copy of the original. (Broadcaster/Elena Lee)