Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Entertainment, Benjamin Style!

Jim and I lived in Hanover, PA when we were first married. In fact, we lived so close to the two Utz Potato Chip factories, that we could smell warm potato chips most of the time, but especially in the mornings. Now, my parents live south of town, and we always pass the old factory on the way to their house. Benjamin has been asking for months to go on the potato chip factory tour. And last week, we finally made it!

He was thrilled when we first pulled in! The site of all of the trucks was just the type of thing that would have literally made him shiver all over with excitement when he was about one year old. Nowadays, he just glazes over with a half-smile on his face and becomes non-communicative. :-) We dragged him into the building to embark on our tour and found an even better vantage point of the loading dock goings-on at the top of the steps. He would have been happy if we had just let him stay right there for the day! But no. We dragged him on.

Then it was the kids' turn to do the dragging. I don't know what we were thinking. Of course they didn't let us stand still to watch the short historical/informational video! They just wanted to see the factory!

The tour is set up rather nicely. There are large windows through which you can see the entire two stories of machinery. Each window "station" has a button you can push to hear a description of what you are watching. Of course, the volume is not set to drown out excited pre-schoolers. And said pre-schoolers were not too interested in listening to a detailed explanation anyway. My mom and I tried to piece together the bits of narration that we could catch with the inferences we could make through visual clues. The machines were very impressive and the process was interesting to see.

I suppose I should share that there was a sign posted at the door stating that cameras were not allowed unless permission was granted. I contemplated leaving my camera in the van and then decided that I'd simply ask if I could take pictures. Why would they possibly care if some mommy took some snapshots (for her blog)? Well, the only man working along the tour route was busy giving a lecture to a group when we passed through. Thus, I snapped away, figuring I would explain that there had been no one to ask if I got confronted. The visit continued, confrontation free. I guess we're good...until all the Utz employees who read my blog report me to the potato chip police...

The process was very interesting to watch. It was neat to see all of the potatoes go in one end of a machine and come out skinned, then sliced, etc. Here, the chips are emerging from being "fried." Yum. 50,000 pounds of warm chips, anyone?!?

At the bottom of this long conveyor belt (below) were two women. Their job was to pick out the burned chips by hand. And this is a good reminder of why staying in school is so important, boys and girls! Of course, in today's economy, they're not hurting for a job...and they probably make good money! Hmmm...verdict is still out on that one. :-)

Those of you who know of Ben's Rokenbok toys: Don't those big bucket conveyors remind you of Rokenbok?!? Ellie was super excited about that! Those who don't know of Rokenbok and are intrigued, go to www.rokenbok.com for a demonstration. The explanation I give people is that it's like Lego meets remote control. Just be careful, if you have a little boy. You may not want to view this for the first time with him in the room - initial viewing can lead to almost certain infatuation! Consider yourself warned...

I digress! Back to the tour. Ellie spent the whole tour running ahead to the next station, so she could be the first to climb up each little ramp in front of the windows. They were very handy for little guys and a nice source of entertainment for those not-quite-so-entranced by the factory, itself.

As we neared the end of the tour, we watched as the bagging and packing station had a machine malfunction. Mom and I were both impressed as one of the workers simply removed the large section of the machine that had gotten jammed and replaced it with another! Genius. Obviously, this makes perfect "assembly line sense." Time wasted trying to fix one part at the end of the line backs up everything else. Instead, mere seconds were lost by exchanging the piece for a new one. Ahh, the things that impress me...

And finally, the warehouse. Doesn't this picture remind you of the end shot of the Indiana Jones movie where they search for the Holy Grail?!? :-) Do you think the Holy Grail is there, buried deep in a box of chips? Both Ben and Ellie enjoyed watching the forklifts buzz around stacking and unstacking. Ellie was most excited to see a GIRL driving a forklift. :-)

And a nice cheesy shot in front of all the different snack chips Utz has to offer. Such choices! Did you know they even make chocolate-covered chips?!?

What a fun, educational, and tasty trip! Stay tuned for more fun family adventures. Next, Ben wants to see how electricity is made. Very logical. First potato chips, then electricity.

1 comment:

  1. I asked about the tour if I could take pictures and they said NO. All I was allowed to do was a picture of the kids eating their free chips-- they specifically asked me not to face the wall of chip bags that you guys have the family picture! The one picture I could take must not have anything in the background. Not sure why they are so protective.... Still, a neat tour and fun to see your pictures-- it's just as we remember it. --chris f