TAMPA — This year, Nutella Oreo funnel cakes and Kettle Corn ice cream won't be the only sweet treats at the Florida State Fair.
This year, an entire exhibit will be dedicated to candy, putting fair-goers senses into a sweet trance.
Stage Nine Exhibitions traveled 3,000 miles to bring Sweet: A Tasty Journey to the Florida State Fair, which runs through Feb. 20.
"It's the exhibit's first time on the East Coast," said Stage Nine Exhibitions CEO Troy Carlson.
The educational and interactive display is broken up into four areas: ingredients, factory, delivery and candy stories.
"We did research on the candy industry, going on factory tours and learning about the process," Carlson said. "Ingredients for a sweet life offers a farm to fork perspective. For the candy stories area, people can learn about all the immigrants' success stories, recipes they brought over and how they created their own candy empires."
Through interactive maps and educational displays, children and families can press buttons to learn facts such as The Netherlands, a smaller country, is the top importer of chocolate.
Or, that circus peanuts inspired the marshmallows found in Lucky Charms cereal today and the original Pez dispenser was invented in Germany to help citizens quit smoking.
Exhibits allow visitors to: feel how difficult it once was for workers to cut candy, by turning the heavy wheel once used in factories; de-mystify candy labels by learning about all those crazy ingredients; discover when trick-or-treating started, how candy canes were invented and why people make gingerbread houses.
Plenty of photo opportunities also await fair-goers inside the sweet exhibit including one in front of a Sweethearts photo booth, perfect for Valentine's Day and a rock candy mountain.
"Any exhibit on candy you have to have a rock candy mountain. There have been all these stories of this idea of a rock candy mountain. A song was written about it in the '40s," Carlson said.
The scent of peppermint lingers around the rock candy mountain, just one of the many scent zones, including chocolate, found throughout the exhibit.
In addition to an idealized mountain made out of a candy, also on display is the lickable wallpaper found in the original Willy Wonka film
The eccentric candy maker is mentioned throughout the exhibit, where fair-goers can view his cane from the original film.
"Wonka was mostly based on William Wrigley, Jr. who was eccentric and had an apartment on top of his factory," Carlson said.
Jelly Bellys are also popular throughout the exhibit, from a giant "bean boozled" wheel to a turtle and Rosie the Riveter jelly belly mosiacs.
Candies that are no longer stocked on shelves today take up an "oddities and rarities wall."Part of the fun of candy, is the nostalgia behind it.
"I love nostalgia and traditions. It's unique that this industry has so many traditions. Some from America and some that we have altered," Carlson said.
After viewing the exhibit, trick-or-treating, hunting for Easter eggs and taking one bite from each chocolate in the box on Valentine's Day will bring a whole new meaning to sweet inspirations.