As a group of school kids got a preview of Kellogg's Cereal City USA before Monday's official opening, 7-year-old Shylyn Daghuer giggled inside a red-ribbed structure designed to mimic the gurgling noises of the digestive system as cereal is eaten.'
"I liked the tunnel noises," she said.For 12-year-old Georgia Brown, the highlight of the trip was "getting my photo put on a cereal box."
That's right. For $10, visitors can have their picture put on a box of corn flakes.
It's been a dozen years since the last tour wound its way through Kellogg Co.'s cereal plant, but Barb Hill still remembers the sweet aroma of freshly baked corn flakes coming off the production line.
"It was like something baking that has maybe gotten just a little too done, but not burned. A more toasted smell," recalls Hill, a lifelong resident of Battle Creek.
Hill was sad when the company ended the tours in 1986 because of safety concerns.
But that all changed Monday when Cereal City opened in downtown Battle Creek, across from the company's corporate headquarters.
Visitors to the $22 million facility are greeted by the sights and smells of a simulated cereal production line and theater shows featuring the characters used in Kellogg's advertising.
Though other attractions across the country showcase a company's brand-name products, such as the World of Coca Cola in Las Vegas and Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, Pa., they are owned and operated by the company whose brand they feature.
Cereal City is owned not by Kellogg but by the nonprofit group Heritage Center Foundation, which developed and promoted the idea after the Kellogg tours stopped. Hall heads the foundation board.
Kellogg contributed $10 million and the state of Michigan and Battle Creek contributed $5 million more. The rest of the money came from other charitable foundations.
The cereal-maker also allows Cereal City USA to use Kellogg's trademarked characters without paying royalties.
"We don't report to anyone at Kellogg's," Hill says.
An estimated 175,000 people annually visited the Kellogg plant each year before the tours ended. Kathy Krenger, marketing director for Cereal City, expects 400,000 visitors annually.
At Cereal City, kids can get their pictures taken with Tony the Tiger, the character that appears on Sugar Frosted Flakes cereal boxes. Toucan Sam of Fruit Loops cereal fame will make regular appearances at the clock bell tower, along with the Rice Krispies cereal trio, Snap! Crackle! Pop!
A 115-seat restaurant offers ice cream sundaes topped with Kellogg cereals, and a gift shop features key chains, clothing and other souvenirs.
If you go
Kellogg's Cereal City USA opened, June 1 in downtown Battle Creek, Mich., next to the Kellogg Co. corporate headquarters.
Open seven days a week, except for major holidays, the attraction is about two hours west of Detroit.
Ticket prices are $6.50 for adults, $4.50 for children ages 3-12 and $5.50 for senior citizens. There is no charge for children under 3.
For more information, call 616-962-6230, or see the Cereal City Web site at (www.kelloggscerealcityusa.com).