Community discovers renewed spirit

A giant Christmas tree, made of steel and twinkling lights, towers over the quaint town of Hershey from high atop the Kissing Tower in Hersheypark.

A larger-than-life snowman ornament on the former Poser’s department store greets motorists driving through town on busy East Chocolate Avenue.

Just another joyous holiday season in Chocolate Town USA.

Hard to believe that just a few months ago, Hershey was a town on the verge of losing its very identity.

Hershey Foods Corp. was up for sale — a decision made by the Hershey Trust Co. on behalf of the candy company’s majority shareholder, the $5.4 billion Milton Hershey School Trust.

It seemed as if there was no saving the town that company founder Milton S. Hershey built almost a century ago.

Despite the bleak outlook, thousands of residents joined forces with political heavyweights to “derail the sale.”

They won the war in September, when the trust company board voted to stop the sale process in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

“I think there’s still a sense of unreality,” said Kathy Taylor, a longtime Hershey resident and one of the leaders in the anti-sale movement. “I have a real appreciation for how far we’ve come, because this is just amazing.”

And as Hershey stands poised to celebrate its centennial in 2003, many say the battle to preserve the town has yielded unexpected benefits: a renewed sense of community and hope for the future.

“I think there has always been a pride in Hershey, and even more so now,” said Kathy Foltz of Palmyra.

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