So that his employees would have a pleasant environment for picnicking and boating, Milton S. Hershey built Hershey Park in 1907.
From the moment he created his community, Milton S. Hershey planned to build a park to create a more pleasant environment for workers and residents than any typical factory town of the time.
In 1903, even though Hershey's Mennonite mother thought his idea was frivolous, he proceeded to survey a site along Spring Creek suitable for his park. On April 24, 1907, Hershey Park opened with a baseball game played on the new athletic field as Mr. Hershey and his wife, Catherine, watched from the grandstand.
Hershey Park's original appeal was its simplicity. An ideal spot for picnicking, boating, and canoeing, the Park was landscaped with graceful trees and wooded groves that provided a shady retreat for thousands of people without being crowded. The original main buildings, a rustic bandstand and pavilion, served as a stage for vaudeville and theatre productions.
On July 4, 1908, a merry-go-round was installed and opened. An amphitheatre was constructed adjoining the pavilion and was described as a "model of excellence." One of the most acoustically perfect buildings of its kind, the amphitheatre offered 1,500-tiered seats on a sloping hillside. The entrance sign read, "Ye who enter here leave dull cares behind."
The 1909 operating season saw the addition of two bowling alleys, a tennis court, a large band shell, and a photography gallery. In addition, the Scenic Railroad was completed and offered guests a relaxing ride through the picturesque area. During the 60-year history of the train, it is estimated the train traveled more than half a million miles.
In July of 1912, William H. Dentzel of Philadelphia, known as the "great flying horse manufacturer," built a $15,000 carrousel. The carrousel was described as the "most magnificent and up-to-date carrousel in this part of the country as well as one of the largest." The carrousel was 50 feet in diameter and featured 53 animals including pigs, rabbits, lions, ostrich, deer, goats, giraffes, bears, and two chariots.
From 1913 to 1923 the following attractions were constructed: a dance pavilion, known as the Starlight Ballroom, a new stage to accommodate the big band era, a new Convention Hall which later became the Hershey Museum, the Hershey Park Café, and the Hershey Zoo that housed Milton Hershey's own animals.
The community of Hershey celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1923. Mr. Hershey's present to the town was The Wild Cat, a new roller coaster. The Roaring Twenties brought even more new rides to Hershey Park including a small Ferris wheel, the Aeroplane Swing "with electric lights and streamers," and the Skooter.
In 1933, new Hershey Park attractions included The Bug, a fun house, The Mill Chute water flume ride, and the penny arcade. The Wild Cat roller coaster was renovated in 1935; its dips were built up and the curves more steeply banked.
Each season brought added attractions to Hershey Park. By 1945 there were more than two dozen "amusements and fun devices," and the original carousel was replaced by the one that is still in use today. In 1946, The Wild Cat roller coaster was replaced by The Comet, which is still a family favorite and is ranked in the country's top ten wooden roller coasters. The year 1950 saw the addition of twin Ferris Wheels 66 feet high. Ten years later, the Dry Gulch Railroad was installed.
In 1971, the first phase of a five-year redevelopment campaign began the conversion from Hershey Park as a regional amusement park to Hersheypark, one of America's most popular theme parks. The pay-as-you-ride policy was replaced with a one-price admission plan.
In 1973, Hersheypark opened a new open-air theatre, the Amphitheatre, on the same spot as the Park's first amphitheatre. The new Amphitheatre featured the Allan Alberts' TV Showcase and Hersheypark Revue. In the same year, Mark Wilson, a magician, performed in a tent adjacent to the Monorail station, which was later developed into the Dry Gulch Theatre. The tent was replaced by an outdoor stage, known today as the Music Box Theatre. The Chevrolet Music Box Theatre was totally enclosed in 1979, providing the Park with its first enclosed theatre since the 1960s.
Over the years, the quality of entertainment provided by Hersheypark has been compared to that of Broadway. Each year Hersheypark hosts auditions in various areas such as New York, Hershey, Boston, St. Louis, and Alabama in search of the best performers.
The sooperdooperLooper was unveiled on July 4, 1977, as the first steel looping roller coaster on the East Coast.
The 1980s brought the addition of rides including the Cyclops, Pirat, Wave Swinger, Conestoga, and Timber Rattler. In 1987, Canyon River Rapids opened allowing guests to simulate a white water rafting trip.
In 1990, The Flying Falcon ride was added. The Sidewinder, a multi-loop steel coaster, opened in 1991. Tidal Force, the world's tallest water plunge ride, opened in May of 1994, and Hersheypark expanded to 90 acres. In 1996, Hersheypark celebrated its 90th operating season with the unveiling of a new one-of-a-kind wooden roller coaster, The Wildcat, named for The Wild Cat at Hershey Park from 1923 to 1946. In 1997, a Ferris wheel and Whip ride were added and Hersheypark expanded to 110 acres.
In 1998, Hersheypark debuted Great Bear, the first steel inverted looping roller coaster in the state of Pennsylvania. You will see Hersheypark as you have never seen it before, plummeting from 120 feet high at nearly a mile a minute - twisting, turning, and spiraling your way through loops and spirals, 360-degree flat rolls, even a zero gravity Immelmann turn with nothing beneath your feet but the ground far below and the sky above... all of this in a hair-raising 175 seconds!
THE FAIR THAT LASTS ALL SUMMER LONG arrived at Hersheypark in 1999. The Hersheypark Fair, featured five new rides such as the Wild Mouse, the Merry Derry Dip Fun Slide, Music Express, Chaos, and the Frog Hopper. A large 10,000 square-foot festival and exhibition tent to showcase a variety of agricultural and educational exhibits is the centerpiece of the fair area. In addition, the fair brings back a wide variety of exciting games to test your skill and the foods of days gone by.
In 2000, Hersheypark debuted the first racing / dueling coaster in the United States - Lightning Racer. Lightning Racer has a double wooden track with two staggered lifts approximately 90 feet per lift, 15 drops at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour and gravitational forces in excess of 3.6g. The two coasters race side by side and then curve to face each other, creating a "duel." Just as the riders come face-to-face with the opposing train, the track splits, in a near miss. As the trains race toward the finish line, they speed toward a rushing waterfall; the tracks swerve and the riders avoid being drenched, but are misted from the cooling waters. At the conclusion of the two-minute twenty-second ride, the winning train is declared and the passengers disembark.
2002 brought guests the ultimate aerial water ride, Roller Soaker. The ride features water curtains, water blasters, and exploding geysers. Each rider will be able to dump up to four gallons of water on spectators below, whenever they choose, while the spectators can direct huge water sprayers toward the riders, offering a drenching interaction for everyone.
In 2003, The Claw, a thrilling, 65-foot spinning pendulum ride - the first of its kind in the Northeast—was added.
In 2004, Hersheypark proudly debuts its 10th exhilarating roller coaster, Storm Runner - the world's first hydraulic launch coaster, featuring inversions.
Hersheypark has undergone many changes since it opened in 1907. But what has remained the same over the years is our commitment to providing guests with fun and entertainment in the midst of beautiful, natural surroundings.
A complete history of the life and philanthropy of Milton S. Hershey is available for purchase at most of our retail shops.