The Homer Laughlin China Company in conjunction with Make-A-Wish West Virginia, was delighted to offer 12-year-old Candy Haugen of Proctorville, Ohio, a day filled with Fiesta fun.
Candy chose the Fiesta tour as her wish because her family has used the distinctive dinnerware, known for its bright colors, for generations, going back to her great-grandmother’s time. The highly collectible Fiesta line graces homes and foodservice tabletops the world over.
“I just think it’s unique,” Candy says, noting that her favorite Fiesta color is Peacock. Her family uses Fiesta dinnerware at meal times, and her dogs, Kay Kay and Cee Cee, eat out of Fiesta bowls.
Leandra Hickman, regional manager for Make-A-Wish in Morgantown, West Virginia, says that Candy’s is one of the more unusual wishes granted. “She just loves Fiesta ware, and she loves the pieces. She really wanted to go to the factory and see how it is made and learn about the history.”
Accompanied by her parents, Wally and Carol Haugen, and her sister, Nicole, Candy arrived at the Homer Laughlin plant on Friday, September 27, 2013. Employees welcomed her, and she heard a heartfelt welcoming speech from company president Liz McIlvain. Next, Candy was presented with her very own employee ID badge, after which she clocked in, beginning her day of Fiesta fun.
Candy’s tour started in the HLC showroom, where she and her family were introduced to America’s broadest line of commercial dinnerware in hundreds of patterns, dozens of distinguishing colors, and 17 shapes, 12 of which are proprietary. From the showroom to the plant floor, Candy and guests, aboard a caravan of carts led by Ken McElhaney, vice president of manufacturing, made their way to the first stop in dinnerware production, the casting shop. There, Candy and Nicole tried their hands at filling molds with slip — liquefied clay — and cracking them open to reveal mini disc pitchers. Master caster Willy Jones praised their work.
Next up was an introduction to the Flat Automatic — an immense jigger that presses a variety of signature Fiesta pieces. Candy was awed by the size and complexity of the machine and learned that it began operating in 1948 and still remains an integral part of plant operations today. The jigger holds more than 3,900 molds and can produce over 25,000 items per shift.
Candy and Nicole moved from department to department, each of which provided hands-on experience in modern dinnerware manufacturing. Candy learned how to carefully ram-cast a heart-shaped bowl and how to apply handles to cups and mugs — creating her own special two-handled mug.
A little more expert for their crash course in manufacturing, Candy and her family ended their tour in the decorating department. In Hand Lining, Candy and Nicole learned how to apply precision lines to dinner plates. Using lines and decals, the sisters were able to hand-apply letters onto mugs for their mom and dad.
After the tour, the group arrived at the HLC museum where retail sales manager Dave Conley shared the history of the company. A special presentation followed, marking perhaps the high point of Candy’s day, when she was given a very rare raspberry-colored Fiesta Presentation Bowl. The Raspberry Bowl, a special limited-run production of 500 pieces in total, was produced and numbered in 1997 to commemorate the 500 millionth piece of Fiesta ever made. Candy is one of only 128 recipients of the famed bowl. Marketing director Dan Williams noted that pieces from the raspberry collection have previously been sold at auction for many thousands of dollars each.
“Every person came together to make this an amazing day for Candy,” Williams says. Candy received several more Homer Laughlin keepsakes, including two Fiesta canisters containing $2,000 in cash, a gift from HLC employees. HLC management, including president Liz McIlvain, environmental and safety manager Scott Wilson, Ken McElhaney, Dan Williams, and marketing coordinator Kate Masters, as well as Make-A-Wish representative Kendall Rutherford, were present throughout Candy’s tour.
Candy’s mother Carol Haugen says, “Words cannot express our appreciation to HLC and all the wonderful members of the HLC family for Candy’s Make-a-Wish visit last week. Your efforts have touched our hearts and made Candy one extremely happy girl.”