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Looking Back: Hershey Park Kiddie Week

One of the first Kiddie rides added to Hershey Park was a children’s boat ride. ca. 1926-1935
One of the first Kiddie rides added to Hershey Park was a children’s boat ride. ca. 1926-1935

Rides specially designed for children began to be added to Hershey Park beginning in 1926. That same year Hershey Park featured its first Kiddie Day. Children 12 years old and younger could register and receive a ticket that would give them free rides and special treats.

In 1929 Hershey Park expanded its Kiddie Day to an entire Kiddie Week that was held each year in late August. In addition to the expanded time, special entertainment was scheduled at the Bandshell for the week. Kiddie Week was part of Hershey Park’s summer events through 1972.

Kiddie Week was a highlight for many Hershey children.  Millie Coyle Landis remembered:

Even though the entrance to the Park was free, you still had to pay for the rides. But that didn’t bother us. We just went and watched other people have fun on the rides  [Laughter] But on kiddies’ day, I remember getting in line and waiting for a strip of tickets, and you got ten tickets and you had these free rides, and you could go every day for the whole week. That was the big thing for us when we were kids. [Laughter]

The merry-go-round was there. That was the most favorite one. I remember airplane rides, The Bug, the Fun House. There were some [tickets] that nobody even used. They used to throw them away. You could find them laying there. Like at the Zoo. Nobody went to the Zoo. There was a Zoo ticket on there, and nobody went to the Zoo. [Laughter] I don’t remember. They were mostly the children’s rides. They weren’t big things, anything that cost like over ten cents. I think the biggest thing was The Bug and the carousel and the airplane rides. There was something called the Whip. The roller coaster was not on the strip. No, it wasn’t. No, it was just the cheap rides. [Laughter]

As Kiddie Week grew in popularity, Hershey Park expanded the program. In 1936 Hershey introduced its Baby Parade. The first Baby Parades were held in Ocean City, New Jersey. The seaside baby parades were held on the boardwalk and served as an ingenious way for proud parents to brag about their children without offending anyone.

Hershey’s Baby Parade began at the Miniature Railroad Station as children under five years old either walked or rode on parade throughout the Park and concluded by crossing the Bandshell floor to the music provided by the Hershey Community Theatre Orchestra.

There were a variety of prizes including ones for cutest baby, fanciest baby carriage, best fancy costume, most original decorated carriage, fattest baby and best comic costume. Beginning in 1947 the Baby Parade took place in the Sports Arena.

The Baby Parade was eagerly anticipated by many. Local resident, Helen (Menicheschi) Cappelli, shared some vivid memories of the Baby Parade:

They really didn’t have [Baby Parades] when I was a little girl, but my children were involved in it. My Elaine, she won a prize. Yes, I remember I had her dressed in a little lavender dress with pink bows in her hair. Then her little doll cart, we decorated that with the same colors that she was wearing, and she won a prize.  Yes, she did. I remember that day. It was a pretty hard day, because it was in the afternoon and it was her nap time. So, oh, my goodness, she really carried on, you know. See, they kept on bringing them back up on the bandstand, you know, to walk around, to choose the ones that were supposed to get the prizes, so they called her up and they called her up. Oh! This didn’t go over well with her. So finally, they chose. But she got the prize.

Baby Parades and Kiddie Week were discontinued after the 1972 season. Hersheypark was actively being redeveloped as a themed amusement park and many traditional park events were no longer offered.

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