The better way to snack!
Popcorn and circus tents seem to go hand in hand so it’s no surprise that the inside of the Wyandot Popcorn Museum in Marion resembles a large circus tent. Under the tent, you’ll discover the largest collection of restored popcorn antiques in one place. This is one of only two popcorn museums in the world with working machines, the other one also being in Ohio at Holland.
This collection began as part of a research project on the history of the Wyandot Popcorn Company by George K. Brown. At first Brown kept his collection in a one-room schoolhouse built in 1882. W. Hoover Brown, the founder of Wyandot Popcorn Company, attended this school and started the company there. But soon the collection exceeded the space available.
After having displays at several locations, in 1989 the ninety-year-old U.S. Post Office building in downtown Marion became available for purchase. Heritage Hall became the perfect place for not only the Wyandot Popcorn Museum but also the Marion County Historical Society. So when you come for a visit, you get two museums for the price of one.
At this point, the Wyandot Popcorn trustees agreed to give financial support to the project if they could maintain 40% of the display space on the first floor for their popcorn memorabilia. The guides at the museum make the popcorn history come alive through the meaningful stories they tell.
A machine owned by Paul Newman is a favorite at the museum. When Newman decided to move into the popcorn industry, he wanted to work with a purely American company so he chose Wyandot with a little friendly persuasion from George Brown. The cart on display was used in New York City to introduce his popped corn.
The owner, Brown, worked diligently to create hybrid popcorn grains that would have the proper moisture content so grains would pop evenly and there would be no unpopped kernels, called Old Maids, left behind. They also developed grains that would have bigger kernels when popped so it would take less popcorn to fill a bag.
In 1996, Wyandot Popcorn Co had a major fire and the factory was closed for about a year. During that time, George paid more than 300 workers 60% of their regular pay as well as providing medical insurance for their families. When they resumed operation, each worker received a $1,000 bonus. It’s no surprise that 98% of the employees returned to work. With goodwill like this, it makes you want to find some Wyandot products to purchase.
Today the business operates under the name, The Wyandot Snack Co., although now they make more than just popcorn. They produce grain-based snacks such as tortilla chips, cheese curls, corn chips and candy covered popcorn. The smells from their company at the edge of town let everyone know what they’re making that day.
Each September, the first weekend after Labor Day, Marion holds a Popcorn Festival starting with a parade on Thursday evening. This is the largest popcorn festival in the world and the weekend is filled with activities and entertainment. Admission to the museum is free this weekend of Sept. 6-8.
Regular visiting hours for the museum through October are Wednesday thru Sunday from 1-4. Remember there’s more to see in Marion as this is the home of President Warren G. Harding. That will require a future Gypsy Road Trip.
Stop in at Wyandot Popcorn Museum for a poppin’ good time!
Wyandot Popcorn Museum is located at 169 E Church Street in Marion, Ohio, which is north of Columbus on Route 23. You can park on the street or there is handicapped parking in the rear.