See how buckeye candies are made at candy company


Bang. Hiss. Bang. Hiss.

Noise making doesn’t conjure images of creamy peanut butter and chocolate buckeye candies. But those sounds resonate at the Anthony-Thomas Candy Co. factory on the west side of Columbus, where the 57-year-old company makes batches of 160,000 of the delectable treats at a time. Gloved workers at the end of an assembly line release the shiny, chocolate gems from plastic molds with a bang on the countertop, creating a beat that interplays with a hiss of air from a compressor amid the machinery. The smell of warm chocolate wafts through the building.

Anthony-Thomas’ candy version of the buckeye nut is produced year-round, but it’s not until fall, when the Ohio State University football team takes the field that the candies are most appreciated. Chocolate buckeyes go hand-in-hand with a Buckeyes game like hot dogs go with baseball.

“The buckeye is our No. 1-selling piece of candy,” says Joe Zanetos, Anthony-Thomas Candy Co.’s president.

Zanetos, who’s led the company since 1993, says Anthony-Thomas has been making buckeyes for about eight years, at an estimated annual rate of more than 2 million.

“We calculated that if we put the buckeyes end to end we could stretch them all the way from Columbus to Zanesville,” Zanetos says.

At first, Anthony-Thomas made its buckeyes by hand for special orders. But the process was too labor-intensive for mass merchandising. As demand increased, the company invented a more efficient, automated method. Think conveyor belts and large steel funnels.

The buckeyes are made upside down. The system starts with an empty tray that has 40 molds – one per buckeye. Trays are transported by conveyor belt, stopping at different stations along the way.

At the first stop, a dab of peanut butter mix is automatically squirted into the bottom of each mold. The light brown blob eventually becomes the buckeye’s characteristic top.

The tray then goes through a cooling tunnel, followed by a pause at a filling station where each mold is filled with milk chocolate. The try is then flipped over to dump out the excess chocolate, leaving a chocolate lining in the mold.

Next comes more cooling followed by a stop at the depositor, where the shell is filled with the bulk of the peanut butter concoction. After more cooling, the candies are squired on the bottom by chocolate.

Zanetos’ grandfather Thomas founded the chocolatier in 1952 along with his father, Anthony. The two combined their first names to create the company’s moniker. In addition to buckeyes, Anthony-Thomas makes boxed chocolates, fudge, brittle, caramel corn and roasted nuts. Specialty items include peppermint bark at Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter.

Guests can tour the Anthony-Thomas factory, 1777 Arlingate Lane, for free every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. To schedule a tour appointment for large groups, call 877-226-3921.

For more information, visit www.anthony-thomas.com.

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View moon, planets, stars at public viewings


When I was a little girl, my dad often encouraged me to look up at the nighttime sky.

Using his U.S. Navy-issued binoculars, he’d point out constellations, such as the Big Dipper and Orion. Dad also taught me about the phases of the moon and how a lunar eclipse is formed.

Learning about our solar system at an early age made me appreciate our planet’s place in it so much more.

While taking an astronomy course at Ohio State University in the late ‘80s, I discovered the Perkins Observatory in Delaware. I delighted in looking at the moon and planets through the facility’s many telescopes. I even saw the rings of Saturn, which looked to me like ears on a monkey’s head.

Perkins Observatory is a research facility that’s used by faculty and students of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Physics and Astronomy Department. It’s also open to the public and offers educational programs in astronomy for all ages.

One great way to get introduced to the subject is at one of Perkins’ stargazing nights, held most Fridays throughout the year. The sessions begin at 9 p.m. in the summer and at 8 p.m. in winter. The programs, held rain or shine, include lessons in astronomy, a tour of the observatory and time to view the moon, planets and stars through the observatory’s 32-inch telescope.

Perkins Observatory can accommodate a maximum of 80 guests, so tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 740-363-1257. Admission is $6 for adults, and $4 for seniors and children. (Tickets purchased on the day of the program cost $2 more.)

The observatory is located along U.S. Rte. 23, 10 miles north of Columbus and four miles south of Delaware. Directions are available on its Web site.

While at the observatory, check out its neat gift shop, where you can purchase meteorites, star locators, telescopes, games and posters. Proceeds benefit the observatory’s library. The facility also recently added a playroom with computers and toys for children.

Happy stargazing!

For more information, visit perkins.owu.edu.

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Identify plants, walk labyrinth at learning gardens on OSU’s main campus


The Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens on the Ohio State University campus is a neat, little place to take the kids for quick lesson on plant identification or just to snap a cute picture in front of some colorful flowers.

The arboretum offers an ever-changing showcase of annuals, perennials and shrubs on a 60-acre patch of land in front of Howlett Hall at 2001 Fyffe Ct. in Columbus. Its mission is to provide an environment to advance the knowledge of students in their horticultural studies and to be a resource for learning about plants for the campus community and general public.

The site also contains a labyrinth for contemplative walking. It was modeled after the famous 11-circuit Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in France that was built nearly 800 years ago. The circular design is especially good for winding down a toddler before her nap. The arboretum is free and open to the public year-round. Check the Web site for special events such as the annual fall plant sale.

For more information, visit chadwickarboretum.osu.edu.

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Pause at tiger exhibit while prowling around Columbus Zoo and Aquarium


Chimpanzees have always been my favorite attraction at the zoo because their humanlike qualities make me contemplate life as we know it. Recently, though, I’ve become captivated by tigers – Amur tigers to be exact.

Three of them are on display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium near the suburb of Dublin, and I’ve gotten to know them better thanks to a family zoo pass that we purchased. Our family has visited the zoo several times this year, giving us varying views of the tigers. Each time these prowling felines put on an amazing show, simply by being themselves, with a beauty and grace not seen in most other animals.

In February, we saw one tiger peacefully lying atop its cement cave during a snowstorm. Another time we watched one pace about its enclosure through a pane of glass. Its massive body slinked by us, a hands-length away. It looked me in the eye, sending a chill up my spine.

The Columbus Zoo is a great place to visit because of encounters such as these. Recently the USA Travel Guide named it the No. 1 zoo in the country. A lot of the publicity comes courtesy of Jungle Jack Hanna, the director emeritus whose many public appearances through the years have propelled the zoo into the national spotlight.

But let’s not forget the animals.

The Columbus Zoo has one male tiger, named Foli, and two females, named Kisa and Irisa. Foli is Kisa’s brother, and he’s been at the zoo since the Asia Quest exhibit opened in 2006. The males can weigh up to 800 pounds, making them the largest tigers in the world.

Amur tigers come from the forests of Eastern Russia, northeastern China and the northern regions of North Korea.

“These forests can look like jungles in the summer, but they become very cold and snowy in the winter,” says Patty Peters, who works in promotions at the zoo. “Its large paws help it cross the snow, as though it’s wearing snowshoes.”

Whether rain, shine or snow, I like to think that these tigers and I are becoming fast friends.

For more information, visit www.colszoo.org.

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