The 14th Annual Northeast PEZ Gathering was held in Stamford, Connecticut and it had to be one of the best yet! Why was it so special? This year’s PEZ convention included a special bus trip to the PEZ factory in Orange, Connecticut. So you had great people, great PEZ, a trip to the PEZ Visitor Center, and a rare factory tour! Peg is the real PEZhead in the family but I definitely enjoyed myself on this trip.
The first thing you need to do at any gathering is pick up your event package. Your package will contain lots of goodies and usually a limited edition convention dispenser. Richie and Mary, our fabulous hosts, were setup early to greet all the arrivals. We made sure to collect all our credentials because we would be on the first bus in the morning.
On Thursday, we had some time to catch up with friends and do a little room hopping before the night’s social event. You should really go to the swap party at night even if you don’t have anything to trade. Be social! If I can do it you can too.
Peg scored a set of the French Snow White Dwarves PEZ dispensers to go with her French Mr. Men after trading some cash. Is that cheating? I don’t usually do the mixed drink thing but I had to try the special PEZ-tini that the bartender was making for everyone. It was very good. Always try new things.
The first bus left promptly at 8am. Richie was making sure everyone had their passes for the tour and the lanyards for the Visitor Center. The Visitor center is normally $5 to get in but it was included with our bus fee. Greeting us when we arrived was none other than Shawn Peterson. Shawn has written several PEZ collector guide books and he now works at the Visitor Center.
We would be on the fifth factory tour for the day so we had some time to look around the Visitor Center before it got too crowded. There is a great collection of PEZ items throughout the brightly colored Center. There are PEZ benches, a PEZ themed motorcycle built by OCC, the world’s largest PEZ dispenser, PEZ guns, and just about everything PEZ has ever made on display. In the “vault” display you can even find the Prince William and Catherine PEZ dispensers that sold for over $13,000! Don’t forget to visit the lounge on the second floor where you will find other items like a collection of vending machines.
The factory tour isn’t usually part of the Visitor Center package; it was special just for the PEZ Convention. Buninton Stevens, who normally works in quality control at PEZ, would be our tour guide for the factory tour. Since they manufacture food in the form of candy at the factory, we had to all wear these stylish smocks and hats. One size does not fit all and I have more hair on my face than my head so I had fun with mine! I thought Peg was going to explode with joy as they transferred the huge containers of raw materials for the making of the actual PEZ candy. She’s so cute.
While the factory in Orange, CT doesn’t make dispensers it sure does make a lot of candy. All the different flavors are made here and then packaged on several different machines.
The candy packages are aligned and then added to the dispensers. On this line they were packaging Halloween dispensers including the new pumpkin for this year. We also saw them packaging the new Spiderman, Lizardman, and Catwoman dispensers. Because of licensing issues we could only buy the pumpkin and Catwoman.
The tour ended with a trip to the warehouse where we saw all the supplies to make the PEZ packaging and floor to ceiling racks of PEZ dispensers! It just went on, and on, and …. 8.5 million dispensers! The tour, while short, was fantastic!
We headed back to the hotel. Not caring much for driving in big cities, Peg and I decided to walk and find someplace for lunch. We ended up at the Stamford Town Center and ate at Mitchell’s Fish Market. The atmosphere was relaxed and the food was excellent. Later that evening, PEZingo was played. Bingo type games don’t excite me much but Peg likes them. I crashed in the room with a pizza while Peg went on to win game six! Yay, Peg!
Ah, Saturday morning. The Convention Floor Show is your last chance to find that special last deal. It’s fun to see all the dealers set up in one place rather than spread throughout the hotel. It’s also time to say goodbye to friends until the next big gathering.