Published in the July 25th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News
Sweet dreams at Ex
Walking through It’s A Candy Nation exhibit at Capital EX is like what I imagine Charlie felt like when he walked through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
My one-on-one tour guide Troy Carlson, creator of the 9,000-sq. ft. candyland, felt like my very own Willy Wonka “candy baron,” as Carlson puts it.
Throughout the process of putting together the extensive candy exhibit, which includes displays featuring over 500 different Pez dispensers, vintage candy box displays and historical biographies on different candy barons, Carlson became something of a candy baron — and candy expert — himself.
“You kind of have to,” he said, while leading me around the candy factory set up beside Rock Candy Mountain, a seven-metre high multi-coloured candy mountain made of mesh and foam, with giant gumdrop and lollipop replicas sticking out from it.
“And when you get into it, it’s interesting to find out all these stories.”
Stories like how gumball dispensers used to be a staple of any drug store, how former U.S. president Ronald Reagan used to have a jar of jelly beans on his desk in the Oval Office and how some gum lovers used to save their wrappers and fold them onto each other to make decorative chains.
The art of candy making
Posters that show the humble beginnings of candy factories and candy-making equipment like cutters, kettles, and molds, are on display.
“Learning the process and how it’s made … it’s an art,” Carlson said. “To know when to add confectioners, to get that perfect glaze.”
Candy boxes dating back to the 1920s, trivia for kids and videos showing how candy is made were situated throughout the exhibit.
Many people lined up to take part in a jelly bean “Bean Boozled” challenge, where an exhibit-goer was faced with swallowing jelly beans that could either be buttered popcorn or rotten egg-flavoured, juicy pear or booger and other questionable flavours.
The distorted wincing of the face was a clear indication of which flavour the person got, including when I took a swallow — I got a centipede-flavoured bean. Tasty.
There were 100 different bulk candies and thousands of jelly beans of more than 70 flavours that visitors could buy.
Other visitors made sure to take some vintage-wrapped and rare, regional candies and chocolates home with them.
“We had several people buying whole boxes of candy because they knew this was their opportunity … (to buy) speciality candies they haven’t seen in a long time,” Carlson said.
Two tubes blowing out milk and dark chocolate scents were also popular, as visitors took turns sniffing the tubes.
Not that anyone actually needed to stick their heads in the tubes to smell candy and chocolate — the entire exhibit area was wafting with sweet and sugary scents.
In the end Carlson hopes visitors will leave the exhibit with a little more knowledge about candy.
This is It’s A Candy Nation’s first time touring in Canada. The exhibit originates from California.
It’s a Candy Nation runs from noon until closing daily in Expo Centre Hall G and H.