A marketing consultant from Colorado Springs is the winner of The Gold Ticket contest and the grand prize of a candy factory in Hawthorne.
Andrew Maas, 39, said he met his wife Hannah in a world race contest, and since then, their family has been taking part in treasure hunts.
The game of skill required an entrance fee of $49.98 to be one of up to 1,000 participants in each of the 50 states. The Maas family ended up taking part in four of those contests and then received the riddle for the grand prize contest as a result.
That riddle was conjured up by the "Candyman" David Klein's partner Stephanie Thirtyacre. Klein helped develop the Jelly Belly brand, then went on to create his own candy factories, including Candyman Kitchens. Last week, Klein announced on the contest Facebook page that the gold ticket had been claimed.
"This is The Candyman....The Gold Ticket Has Been Claimed.....so Happy," he wrote.
Maas had figured out the ticket was in Kokomo, Indiana, from the clues in the contest riddle and jumped on the first flight out from Denver that he could book.
"I was trying to figure out exactly where it was based on clues," Maas said in a phone interview. "I walked around the park for 45 minutes, but finally went back to the covered bridge."
That's where, after battling spiders and ants, Maas discovered the gold ticket on a chain buried in a bag under the bridge. He said he immediately FaceTimed with his family to show it off, then relayed the winning serial number to Klein to verify the win.
Klein noted the irony that the grand prize was discovered five years later to the date after "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" star Gene Wilder died at age 83. Summer 2021 also marks the 50th anniversary of the movie's release.
What happens next is up to the Maas family, Klein said.
The building located in downtown Hawthorne has recently been renovated, he said. It has new paint, a new roof, air conditioning unit and HVAC system and is up to code for manufacturing candy.
Klein said he thinks Maas would be a great factory owner if that's what he chooses to do.
The options for Maas are to accept the title of the building and start the factory up with Klein's training and equipment, or, if Maas wants the cash value of the building, Klein will hand him a check for the value of the property and keep it.
The 4,000 square foot factory once served as the town's general store, according to former Mayor Matt Surrency.
"If he doesn't take it over, he can sell it to anyone else, or we'll buy it back," Klein said. "We want him to be happy."
Maas, who studied business at Palm Beach Atlantic University, is familiar with living in Florida. He said his family plans to visit the factory within the next two weeks to determine what they want to do.
"We had not planned on getting into the candy businesses but then there is this incredible opportunity," he said.
Here's the riddle to the grand prize and Maas' explanation (via Facebook) of how it led him to the final grand prize:
Line 1 - Don't have a instant idea, for a treasure diehard
Since the beginning I have been trying to figure out the first line first, as I figured it had to do with the city and state. I was trying not to solve from the bottom knowing that searching for nuts and witches first would give too many solutions and lead me astray.
I found so many solves going that route, but I could not match all the lines and I was only getting partial solves. I had partial solves in Michigan, Illinois, Texas and Oklahoma, but nothing felt strong enough to go and do an in person search. I was thinking it had something to do with slow down or not to fast as it would be the opposite of an instant idea.
When the clue came out about its not in Oklahoma, I was thinking not “sooner.” Or not soon. Take your time, I was telling my wife about that. She asked me what states were left and I said just Illinois and Indiana and something clicked and she said, “the second line about treasure diehard—it has to be Indiana Jones. It’s in Indiana.”
I ran over to my phone and started looking at all the towns in Indiana to see if any of them had anything to do with not soon, or slow. I saw Kokomo and right away started singing, “We'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow. And I knew it had to be in Kokomo, Indiana.
I started looking up parks and saw the giant sycamore tree and the covered bridge and I started looking at pictures on Google earth. I also figured at this point that the clue about sandwiches related to a picnic shelter and not in reference to the clue about the witches, although I had looked for a long time at Sandwich and Bologna in Illinois in previous searches.
Line 2 - We see witches nearby, two stand guard
I was looking at picnic shelters in Kokomo. I clicked on the highland well house shelter and I saw a picture of two gazebos that look like witches’ hats. I figured that was the 2nd line. It said they were standing guard, so I did not think it was in the gazebos, but it was in or somewhere around them. I was not sure exactly what was around there or how far everything was from the witch’s hats.
Because I had the city and state and the 2nd line I was 100% confident that it was somewhere in this park, and figured I would be able to solve the last 2 lines in person. Also I was sure David was a Beach Boys fan growing up in southern California.
We prayed for peace if I should get on a plane and fly to Indiana. I felt like it was what I was supposed to do. So at 12 am I jumped online and bought the first flight to Indianapolis that left at 6 am in the morning out of Denver.
So with no sleep I packed my bag, drove up to Denver, jumped on the flight, got in my rental car and drove straight to the park. I walked around the gazebos and then saw the covered bridge. I walked through it but didn’t see anything that matched the picture. I briefly looked on the outside, but it looked like concrete and not the metal in the picture. I knew there were more lines to the riddle, so I continued my journey. Also, this park has so much in it, I wanted to see if anything else made more sense.
Line 3 - Go Solve and Search, as low as our toe
This line I assumed there was something with the SS being capitalized as the G would be capitalized regardless and thought it might reference the giant Sycamore Stump, just up the hill from the covered bridge.
I walked up the hill and walked around the stump, saw the giant bull that was also on display, looked around the Civil War cannon in the area, but there was absolutely nothing that was even close to looking like the metal in the picture. All the posts were square or round wood. I was trying to find something that was metal.
I knew there were some other bridges down the path and thought it might be hidden further into the park, so I walked along the stream, but didn’t see anything that looked like the picture of where it was hidden.
Line 4 - Why find a nut and walks are no foe
Based on the picture I figured this line was just in reference to the fact that it was hidden by a nut or bolt. After coming up empty everywhere else in the park, I walked back to the covered bridge to do a more thorough search and walked down the hill a little further and immediately saw the metal and the nut and bolt sticking out and knew it was the spot, but I didn’t know which corner. The picture orientation matched the southeast corner and northwest corner, but I thought maybe they flipped the picture to mess with me.
There was so much dead grass and leaves and debris and spiders and ants that it was hard to tell if I was looking at grass or twine, also I didn’t want to stick my hand into the pile of bugs and spiders, so I grabbed a stick and I poked around all 4 of them over and over.
I just kept 2nd guessing myself and running all around to the corners trying to match the picture and figure out which one it was, until I slowed down and studied the picture and realized the picture had to be the northwest corner, because there was a small reflection in the metal and that is the only side that would get any sun.
I ran back to that corner and there was so much grass and twigs it was hard to tell what was twine and what was dried grass so I grabbed a little stick and moved everything out of the way and dug down in the dirt down an inch or so and found the baggie with the gold ticket.