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Marshmallow factory tour is sweet deal

From Out West #14

By Chuck Woodbury
editor, Out West

Today, I visited my first-ever marshmallow factory. It was a swell experience, and I recommend you visit a marshmallow factory if you get the chance.

I visited Kidd Marshmallow's in Henderson, Nevada (a suburb of Las Vegas)

The company offers a self-guided tour, and at the end you get a free 1.5 ounce bag of mini marshmallows. For $7.50, you can buy a T-shirt with pictures of marshmallows on the front.

Kidd's Marshmallows makes between 15,000 and 30,000 pounds of marshmallows every day. The way I figure it, that's millions and millions of marshmallows. My 1.5 ounce bag contained 80 marshmallows, so you figure.

Kidd and Company went into business in Chicago in the 1880s. The company started making marshmallows about 10 years later. Today, at plants in Indiana and Nevada, Kidd makes more marshmallows than anyother company but Kraft.

A real marsh mallow is a wild plant found in marshes and meadows, growing to heights of two to four feet. The mallow belongs to the family Malvaceae-althaea officinalis. The word marshmallow comes from the Middle English word Mershmalwe which is a derivative of an Old English term Merscmeale. Mersc translates to marsh and Meale means mallow. I'll bet this is the first time you've been told this.

Egyptians made marshmallows as early as 2000 B.C., but only gods and royalty got to eat them. The modern marshmallow was created in France during the mid-1800s for everybody to eat.

Kidd makes many kinds of marshmallows including Coconut Marshmallows, Smurfmallows, Martian-mallows and even Penn State Nittany Lion Marshmallows.

The tour of the Kidd Marshmallow factory lets you see the entire process. The most interesting part is where all the ingredients are mixed together and then carried off on a five-foot wide conveyer belt.

After the concoction leaves the conveyer belt, it is chopped up, shaken up, dropped, and finally bagged. You get to see all this happen.

The Kidd Factory was destroyed in 1988 when a rocket fuel plant next door exploded. Two people died at the rocket fuel factory, but all of Kidd's employees survived -- which is amazing when you consider the blast registered 3.5 on the Richter scale.

For the next year and a half, while the marshmallow factory was being rebuilt, all Kidd employees received their regular paychecks (thanks to a terrific business insurance policy). Company officials urged these employees to use their spare time to do community service work -- and they did, contributing 67000 hours all together before they went back to their jobs.

About 45 Kidd employees did volunteer work -- rebuilding bicycles at a children's center, making shark tooth molds at a natural history museum, cutting millions of ribbons for MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving), and rebuilding a church on the Maopa Indian Reservation. They painted buildings at the Clark County Social Services and at a hospital. All together, Kidd employees donated about a third of a million dollars in volunteer help.

Now, they are back making marshmallows.

You should check out this place if you're in the Las Vegas area.

UPDATE (December, 2000): The marshmallow factory has a new name -- The Favorite Brands International Marshmallow Factory (whew!). It's self-guided tour is still one of the most unique experiences in Las Vegas. Visitors are still greeted by a pudgy
"Man from Marsh" before witnessing the cooking and air pumping of the cushy confections.The factory is at 1180 Marshmallow Lane in Henderson, (702) 393-7308. To get to the factory from Las Vegas, drive south on U.S. 95 from Las Vegas and take the Sunset Road exit. Turn left at the light, travel 1/2 mile and then turn right on Gibson Road. Drive a mile and a half and turn right. The factory is the copper-topped building. The best bet for taking a tour is during normal business hours. But it's wise to call ahead because the marshmallow production process does not run contuously, and you'll want to make sure to visit when it's up and running.

©2002 by Out West Newspaper.


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