Hundreds visit Jelly Belly to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day

[caption id="attachment_1018" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Kristen Cumings works on her giant panda art creation Kristen Cumings works on her giant panda art creation[/caption]

The spotlight was on Fairfield’s Jelly Belly Factory Tuesday as hundreds of visitors came from throughout the region to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day.

In addition to the free tours that run daily at the factory, there were several activities for children and adults to celebrate the candy that has made Jelly Belly a household name for over 35 years.

Visitors were invited to take part in the Jelly Bean Challenge, where they had the opportunity to challenge the Guinness World Record for sorting a mix of 30 jelly beans into five cups using a straw or chopsticks The current world record for sorting jelly beans with chopsticks is 21.53 seconds. Most of the visitors Tuesday were sorting the beans between one and two minutes.

Meanwhile, Jelly Belly artist-in-residence Kristen Cumings worked on her portrait of a giant panda – made entirely from jelly beans – all day in the Jelly Belly Visitor Center . Once complete, the giant panda portrait will join the Endangered Species Series, a new Jelly Belly Art series dedicated to immortalizing the colorful and rare animals of the earth in vibrant Jelly Belly jelly beans.

The giant panda, which is being made using a variety of approximately 10,000 jelly beans that include coconut, birthday cake remix and vanilla bean for the lighter colors and 7-Up, black pepper, plum and licorice for the darker shades, measures 4ftX5ft in size. Cumings explained that she and the Jelly Belly team thought this would be the best creation to showcase Tuesday because the date was also Earth Day.

“It’s really cool to be doing a panda, an endangered species,” she said as she carefully but also very quickly placed coconut jelly beans on the pre-painted canvas. “It’s a cool connection between Earth Day and National Jelly Bean Day.”

As she worked on her portrait, Cumings was happy to pause to talk to visitors about her work, pose for pictures or sign an autograph. Adults and children alike were often seen gathered near her table watching her work with the jelly beans. There was also a camera right above her canvas, livestreaming her work to those who could not be there in person. The “Panda Art Cam” link was available on the Jelly Belly website.

[caption id="attachment_1019" align="alignright" width="300"]Jelly Belly visitors stand in front of portraits made of jelly beans Jelly Belly visitors stand in front of portraits made of jelly beans[/caption]

“I really enjoy talking to the people at these events, especially the kids – they are the most entertaining,” Cumings said.

Just a few feet away from her giant panda, her other work in the Endangered Species series, which include the Great Green Macaws, a Hawksbill Sea Turtle, a Rockhopper Penguin, the Swift Foxes, and a Grizzly Bear, were all on display.  Once it is complete, Jelly Belly plans to tour the collection across North America for display at museums, zoos and animal conservation programs.

The Jelly Belly Art series is one of the most popular attractions at the Jelly Belly Factory. These large scale portraits of famous personalities and classic Americana subjects all made in mosaics of thousands of Jelly Belly jelly beans are in the private collection of the Jelly Belly Candy Company. Selections may be seen in traveling exhibits, around the world, and on free public tours of the company’s Visitor Centers in California and Wisconsin. The Jelly Belly Collection includes portraits of Elvis Presley, Abraham Lincoln, Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”, Ronald Reagan, Amelia Earhart, Laurel & Hardy, James Dean, a Native American chief, Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr., the Statue of Liberty, the Marilyn Monroe, Asian “good luck” Dragon and others.

Jelly Belly Art was the brainchild of San Francisco artist Peter Rocha over 30 years ago.  Other artist have followed in his footsteps over the years and in 2009, Cumings, from Martinez, California, was commissioned to make a tribute to the California grizzly bear. This 6-foot tall portrait, made of 14,000 Jelly Belly beans, is the first Jelly Belly Art piece to be made in public, when she created it over several weeks at the “It’s a Candy Nation” exhibit at the California State Fair. She has continued to create the Masterpieces Collection, larger-than-life reproductions of famous pieces such as Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” all in Jelly Belly jelly beans. The eight-piece collection has exhibited in museums across the country since 2011.

Cumings said Tuesday that most of her pieces measure 4ft X 5ft and take approximately three weeks to complete, or roughly 100 hours. She started the giant panda about a week ago and expects to have it complete by the end of the month.


Kids sorting jelly beans

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said of her art form. “Not a lot of people do it and I really enjoy it. But you can’t take yourself too seriously. It’s not like traditional media… I really like the idea that anything can be made with everything we find around us.”

Since she works around them all day, Cumings is used to being asked if she likes jelly beans. The answer, she said, is yes, of course. However, she cannot eat the Jelly Belly beans that make up her artwork. Those have all been sprayed with adhesive so they can easily stick to the board. But she has her ways of finding the tasty treats.

“Who doesn’t love jelly beans,” she exclaimed. “The sours are my favorite for sure.  But I also really like the new Tabasco flavor. They are super hot and really good.”

The Jelly Belly Candy Co. introduced the first Jelly Belly bean in 1976. The company currently makes over 100 year-round and seasonal gourmet candies at its company headquarters in Fairfield and two additional manufacturing facilities. The company is a family-owned business now in its fifth and sixth generation of candy making. Additional information is available from the Jelly Belly Hotline (800) 522-3267 or at