Man wins candy factory after finding Indiana’s golden ticket – NBC Chicago

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For more than three months, a small necklace with a golden ticket attached was buried in the ground in Highland Park, waiting to be found.

Andrew Maas, a 39-year-old dad from Colorado, did just that. On August 29, he entered the park and unearthed the banknote hidden under the Vermont Covered Bridge.

And with that, he became the new owner of a 4,000 square foot Florida candy factory.

The find was the culmination of a year-long nationwide scavenger hunt, inspired by Willy Wonka, which brought together 35,000 people to solve puzzles and then travel the country in search of banknotes. gold hidden in every state.

But the final ticket to the ultimate candy factory prize lay quietly underground in Highland Park.

The national scavenger hunt was orchestrated by David “Candyman” Klein, who developed the world famous Jelly Belly brand in 1976 and founded Candyman Kitchens.

Last year, he and his partner, Stephanie Thirtyacre, scoured the country hiding tickets in every state and then creating four-line puzzles that lead hunters to the prize. A thousand people were allowed to register for each state hunt and the researcher received a prize of $ 5,000.

“We just got in the car and off we went,” Thirtyacre said. “We do things really spontaneously.

When Klein, 74, announced the scavenger hunt in September, it quickly gained national media attention, with major news outlets around the world covering the fantastic business. Soon their website for research went viral.

It was then that Maas stumbled upon the contest.

He said he liked puzzles and adventures. He even met his wife on a yearlong missionary trip around the world based on the hit TV show “The Amazing Race”.

So Maas couldn’t resist the prospect of getting clues and looking for golden tickets. He ended up signing up to hunt in Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and South Dakota, but never found a ticket.

Maas said he solved the ticket puzzle in Kansas and was close to getting it when another contestant beat him a minute before he arrived.

Then, on Memorial Day weekend, the last riddle of the last post was released for everyone who had signed up for state hunts. He was reading :

“I have no instant idea, for a fan of the treasure

“We see witches nearby, two are on guard

“Go solve and search, as low as our toe

“Why find a nut and walks are not an enemy.”

Maas immediately started working on solving the puzzle. For months he worked on the clues, but continued to find himself in dead ends.

As the weeks dragged on and no one found the ticket, Klein began posting smaller clues to help, including narrowing the search area from six states to Illinois and Indiana.

It was then that Maas came up with the idea that Indiana Jones was “a fan of the treasure.” The ticket was in Indiana. He started looking at towns across the state and ran into Kokomo. That’s when the line “Don’t have a instant idea” made him think of the Beach Boys song “Kokomo” and the lyrics “We’ll get there quick and then we’ll take it slow”.

“It was such a fun name, and I knew David was a fun, light-hearted person,” Maas said.

It sounded good to him, so he started looking at all the parks in the city, knowing that the tickets were still hidden in public areas. Maas found a photo on Google Maps of the two pavilions near the Vermont Covered Bridge in Highland Park. They looked like two witch hats.

At 10:30 p.m. on August 28, all the clues fell into place. Maas had it.

At midnight, he bought a 6am flight from Denver to Indianapolis, where he landed that morning and drove straight to Kokomo.

After a 30-minute search, Maas knew he was buried somewhere under the bridge after looking around the Old Ben and Sycamore Stump exhibits.

Klein had previously provided all candidates with a close-up photo of the location as a clue, which showed metal. From the reflections of the sun in the photo, he knew it must be under the northwest metal beam of the bridge.

Maas started to dig. Then he saw the reflection of the metal ticket in the ground.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe it, ”he said. “After all this time, I had it. It was so surreal. I had been thinking about it for a year. It was a crazy mix of adrenaline and excitement.

Maas recorded his find on the treasure hunt website. Twenty minutes later Klein called him while he was still in Highland Park and told him he had won. He had just won the candy factory.

Maas was devastated. He now owned the factory, which makes an edible sand art treat called Sandy Candy, along with other sweet concoctions. But he knew he couldn’t get his wife and two children back and move them to Florida to run the business.

Instead, the two are now working on a deal in which Klein gives him the factory and then buys it back from him. Maas said he was okay with what the deal might be.

“Either way, we’ll be happy,” he said. “It’s money we didn’t have. But the excitement and adventure was the real reward. Money is the sauce on top.

Everything begs the question: why choose Kokomo for the final golden ticket?

As with most things with Klein and Thirtyacre, it came down to chance.

Around March, the pair started to think about where to hide the final ticket and thought they wanted it somewhere in the middle of the country. Kansas was at the back of their minds.

So just like before, they hopped in the car and started driving from Florida to Kansas with no particular place in mind. When they hit Indiana, Thirtyacre decided she was tired of driving. The two were planning to travel to Illinois to see his son.

It was then that they saw the exit for Kokomo. Klein started humming the Beach Boys song and Thirtyacre remembered that she had a recently deceased aunt living there. Soon they were on the way out and headed for town before meeting up in Highland Park.

They both fell instantly in love with the Vermont Covered Bridge. And that’s where they buried the last Golden Ticket that was hidden for three months before Maas flew out of Colorado to find it.

The two also ended up falling in love with the city. In fact, they named their new kitten Kokomo.

“Everyone there has a very, very good attitude and a positive attitude, and we really felt welcome there,” Klein said.

The scavenger hunt fulfilled a longtime dream for Klein, who has worked in the candy business since the age of 7, when he ran the candy section of his grandmother’s liquorice store in California.

Inspired by Willy Wonka, Klein always wanted to offer a candy factory, and Thirtyacre said she always wanted to create her own national scavenger hunt. With their combined powers, they decided to be successful last year.

And now that the contest is over and they’ve given away a candy factory and $ 250,000 in prizes, they both say they feel like they’ve done something really special for the nation as they go. ‘she is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Honestly, we felt like we had done good for the world, and it gave us the greatest pleasure,” Klein said. “It was something to think about and dream about. And sometimes dreams are better than reality.


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