By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, The Associated Press
EASTON, Pa. (AP) - Crayon manufacturer Crayola is building a family attraction in Florida, similar to the one it operates in its home state of Pennsylvania, and more could be on the way around the country if the new place does well.The company said Tuesday that Crayola Experience Orlando will open next summer at The Florida Mall.Crayola Experience Orlando will feature 25 hands-on activities in 70,000 square feet of space. One attraction will let children create their own unique crayon with a personalized wrapper. Another will let kids appear on their own coloring page."We definitely feel like there's an opportunity to expand in major markets around the country," Crayola CEO Mike Perry told The Associated Press.Crayola, a subsidiary of Kansas City, Missouri-based Hallmark Cards Inc., noted Orlando is a top family destination.The area has three major theme park resorts - Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld - and many more specialty parks and attractions, some built around children's brands, such as Legoland Florida in nearby Winter Haven.But Perry said the attraction doesn't expect to rely entirely on tourists for its success. Like the Easton location, Crayola expects its Orlando attraction to draw plenty of local families."I think Orlando stands on its own," Perry said. "For just the local market, that is a big enough population by far, with enough young families in that market, that it sustains itself."Russell Schmid and his family traveled some 130 miles from their home in Gardner, Pennsylvania, to take in the Crayola Experience in Easton on Tuesday. He expects the Orlando location to do just as well as the original, which is typically packed on very hot or rainy summer days."Who doesn't like crayons? The adults in there are having as much fun as the kids," Schmid said as his 18-month-son, William, played on a giant crayon.The company is private and declined to say how much it's spending on Crayola Experience Orlando.Crayola Experience has its origins in a single floor of interactive activities the company offered at a visitors' center it opened in 1996 in Easton, where Crayola is headquartered. The company said the center was primarily founded as a tool to help revitalize the downtown of the eastern Pennsylvania city.With a decision made to "dip its paint brush into the attractions industry," the company said, the facility was completely redesigned and re-opened in May with activities spread throughout four floors.Crayola was launched by Edwin Binney and his cousin, C. Harold Smith, who started out in 1885 making red oxide pigments for barn paint and carbon for black automobile tires.In 1900, they opened a mill in Easton to produce slate pencils for schools. They soon identified a market for affordable wax crayons and in 1903, Binney & Smith produced the first box of eight.
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