A Colorado Man Just Won A Candy Factory In Real-Life Willy Wonka Scavenger Hunt

What do Indiana Jones, The Beach Boys, and witch hats have in common? They were all part of a series of clues that led a Colorado man on the adventure of a lifetime, culminating in the discovery of a golden ticket necklace and ownership rights to a real-life 4,000-square-foot candy factory in Florida. If it sounds like something out of a fantastical children's book, it kind of is.

According to Heavy.com, iconic candyman David Klein — original founder of the Jelly Belly jelly bean empire and the man behind the Amazon Prime documentary "Candyman: The David Klein Story" — decided to launch a nationwide Willy Wonka-style scavenger hunt last fall to bring a bit of levity to a world in the throes of a pandemic. Via a designated Facebook page, he announced, "We started this to have fun and to bring excitement to a world that is so troubled." 

And Klein knows a thing or two about finding fun in challenging times. After he invented Jelly Belly in the 1970s, he lost the rights to his invention through an ill-advised sales agreement to the Goelitz Candy Company – but he never lost his sense of wonder. Klein has continued creating candies in the decades after and now has a company called Candyman Kitchens where he sells his new sweets and owns a business called Tricky Treasures, which naturally hosted the treasure hunt (per Heavy.com).

The winner found the golden ticket necklace in Indiana

According to The Takeout, candyman David Klein decided to take a road trip and hide golden ticket necklaces at locations across the country and posted clues based on each site's history on a designated website, TheGoldTicket.com. That's when Andrew Maas of Colorado decided to join the hunt and became the ultimate winner after the 39-year-old father found the final clue on August 29 buried in a park in Kokomo, Indiana, besting 35,000 other participants (via Kokomo Tribune). The paper also says that up to 1,000 people were invited to take part in each of the state scavenger hunts, with those winners netting $5,000 each.

Maas is a self-proclaimed lover of riddles and adventures who met his wife during an "Amazing Race"-style trip around the world, and couldn't resist the challenge. On Memorial Day weekend, Klein dropped the final clue that led to Maas' win. The clue read, "Don't have an instant idea, for a treasure diehard / We see witches nearby, two stand guard / Go Solve and Search, as low as our toe / Why find a nut and walks are no foe."

Maas worked for months trying to solve the puzzle before the pieces fell into place. He connected the "treasure diehard" clue to Indiana Jones. By a stretch, he tied "an instant idea" to lyrics from The Beach Boys song "Kokomo." Those clues led him to the town in Indiana, and then he started scouring Google Maps for ideas. He hit on two pointy-topped pavilions (aka the "witches nearby") located in Kokomo's Highland Park. And the rest, as they say, is history.

After he deciphered the secret message, Maas caught a flight from Denver to Indianapolis, rented a car, drove to Kokomo, and found the golden ticket necklace. Twenty minutes after he registered his find on the contest website, Maas was on the phone with Klein. While he's thrilled with his success, the Denver man wasn't in it for the keys to the candy factory, and says he's not in a position to relocate his family to Florida to become a candymaker, so he's working out a deal with Klein to get rights to the factory but sell it back to him (per Kokomo Tribune). In the end, though, Maas got what he was looking for — excitement and adventure.