Grafschaft "Be happy" was the slogan for the big Haribo chestnut exchange launched on Friday morning. The first acorn and chestnut collectors had already arrived at the confectionery company at around 5 a.m. with children at hand.
Benjamin's cuddly stuffed animal sits on the wagon. Under it are three boxes full of gummy bears and licorice. The five-year-old is beaming: that's exactly how he had imagined the Haribo exchange - chestnuts are given away, gummy bears are taken in.
Already at 6:45 a.m., a quarter of an hour earlier than planned, the gates to the Haribo weighing scales opened, as a long queue of Haribo fans had already formed by that time.
They had come from all over the region and beyond. With filled bins, wagons, laundry baskets, backpacks, bags and buckets, they came to the company headquarters in Grafschaft Innovation Park. The company has been based there since it moved its headquarters from Bonn in 2018.
Since Friday morning, acorns have been exchanged for sweets at a ratio of 1:5, and chestnuts at a ratio of 1:10. So anyone who gives away ten kilos of chestnuts receives a kilo of gummy bears in exchange.
Denise and Matthias Emminger set off early Friday morning from Bergisches Land on their way to Grafschaft. The young couple have been eagerly collecting in the parks and woods around Gummersbach in the last few days. After about an hour's drive, the two Haribo fans stood in front of the still locked factory gates. However, they were among the first to be allowed to bring in their collection - three boxes of chestnuts and one box of acorns - for weighing on the scales. Isabell Hoppe came with her family from Neuwied. At six o'clock, one hour before the start of the exchange, the four Hoppes stood in line in Grafschaft at the Innovation Park. The waiting was rewarded with lots of sweets.
Chestnuts are accepted until Saturday afternoon
Saturday is the last day when chestnuts and acorns will be accepted. Once received, they are emptied onto small conveyor belts and into containers, which are then picked up during the day and transported to German and Austrian game and animal parks. More than 250 tons of chestnuts and around 150 tons of acorns were collected last year. On Saturday evening it will become clear just how great the joy of collecting was this year.
"This whole week, my daughters were already completely crazy “, reports Dennis Hutsch from Heimersheim, who only had a short journey. With his daughters Adelina (9) and Alina (6) he had come to Haribo with plenty of bags. Long before sunrise, the excited children had already got up. On Alina’s jacket, these words are written: "Be happy". At least she was when she loaded Haribo's cartons of candy into the trunk of the family car.
Sarah Schmitz came from Bad Ems with her five-year-old son. "I didn't have to wait long. I had already prepared myself for a longer period of standing”, said the young mother. Indeed: On Friday noon there was hardly any line, at lightning speed the fruits of the forest were weighed and the sweets were distributed in return.
65 coworkers of Haribo, members of the Grafschaft fire department and the Red Cross are there until Saturday afternoon in order to provide for smooth operations during the exchange. Even portable toilets have been set up. A bouncy castle, licorice fishing, a wheel of fortune and a painting corner are there for the small Haribo guests.
Last year, about 20,000 people from all parts of Germany came to Grafschaft on both exchange days. At times there were queues up to 700 meters long, waiting times were more than four hours. At the moment everything is going quickly and smoothly. As the holidays in NRW begin on Friday, a larger rush was expected for the afternoon.
(Orig. text: Victor Francke, Translation: ck)