FAIRFIELD — Jelly Belly celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Visitors Center, Saturday, with festivities that included carnival rides, factory tours and live entertainment.
Children could ride the zipline or a pony as vendors took over the parking lot with performances from the Band of the Golden West and Wahiawa Kajukenbo.
“It seemed like there were a lot of happy faces out there,” said John Jamison, Jelly Belly’s vice president of retail operations.
The 37,000-square-foot Visitors Center features a cafe, a candy shop and Mr. Jelly Belly hanging overhead.
“The factory opened here in 1986,” Jamison said. “The Visitors Center opened in the early summer of 1999.”
A banquet hall upstairs can host meetings, parties and even weddings, he said. In the Very Cherry portion of the Grand Bean Room, the older-21 crowd could try the Jelly Belly Chocolate & Wine Experience. In its first year, the pairings of local Suisun Valley wines with fudge made at the factory has proven to be a success.
“We doubled our expectations on that,” he said.
In the cafe, visitors could order a bean-shaped burger or bean-shaped pizza before heading over to the sample booth, which allows three free beans of flavors such as vomit, rotten egg and booger.
Robert Hamilton and his 4-year-old daughter had just sampled a few flavors and were exploring the shop. He decided to bring the family after he heard about the event on the radio during his commute from Concord to Sacramento, but it wasn’t their first time at the factory.
“We’ve been here more than a few,” he said.
Nancy Hamilton used to work for Contra Costa County Special Education and would bring the children to the factory.
“It’s a great field trip for the kids . . .” she said. “The environment is very stimulating, actually.”
Hamilton said they frequently come back with some particular sweets in mind.
“The fudge, and the black jelly beans for her,” he said.
Jamison said there are 50 official flavors at the Jelly Belly Factory, including his personal favorite, orange sherbert.
“When you put it with French vanilla, it makes a creamsicle,” he said.
But the new draft beer flavor inspired by a German hefeweizen has been the recent hit.
“The new bean has a crisp, clean, fresh-from-the-draft taste,” he said.
“It’s been a home run,” he said.
Jelly Belly’s anniversary event continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a performance by The Hipwaders scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.