Elizabeth, our conductor, is standing proud, smiling, and wearing an old train uniform from days past that touches the heart of my inner-child.
“You can sit anywhere you want,” she says greeting everyone in our group.
Stepping onto the light blue colored section of the train, I don the paper hat that we are required to wear, clip the black seat belt and settle in. Sensors turn the overhead lights on in the factory from the motion of the train and as I take notice of the mosaic Jelly Belly art, I hear a child’s excitement as he points in the direction of the wall monitor.
“Look,” he says as he briefly grabs the black train handle in front of him. Wearing a long sleeve shirt, sitting low and holding onto his party hat with one hand, I’m absorbing his enthusiasm.
The train stops with the CEO appearing on the screen at station one. Feeling the energy from this handsome lad behind me, I start to wonder what flavor jelly bean pleases the taste buds of everyone on board and imagine, with deep fervor, what the new beer flavored jelly bean tastes like. Is it possible that a jelly bean can actually taste like beer is the question on my mind. Then I think wine. Is there a wine flavored jelly bean - a cab franc or a Shiraz?
After tuning out the video due to being lost in my own child-like excitement of the fantasy of there being a Shiraz flavored jelly bean, we arrive at station two where the story behind the conception of the mosaic art by artist Pete Rocha comes on the screen. Childhood nostalgia is flowing through my body while we watch a segment on Rocha and his Jelly Belly mosaic of former President Reagan. “Reagan used to always have a jar of jelly beans within his reach,” I say as we take off for station three.
Over the next fifteen minutes we learn about the infusion process of Jelly Belly’s unique flavors – from mixing the center of a jelly bean to a bean taking shape – from the engrossing process to polishing. Along the way employees wave with smiles on their faces as they move around boxes and shrink wrap pallets for delivery. The train makes a right turn and pulls up to the exit door leading into the gift shop.
Walking through the door I pass the floor display with bags of “Belly Flops – Irregular Jelly Beans.” These poor little guys didn't make the cut of being an authentic Jelly Belly yet still taste delicious. I happily walk up to the sample counter and ask Sam for the beer flavored jelly bean. He hands two jelly beans a piece to two women in line and then me. We toss them in our mouths.
“They taste just like beer,” says the shorter woman.
“I feel like I’m sitting at a ballpark,” I say wide-eyed with amazement.