Chocolate and charity: a sweet pairing

04/07/2014 2:39 PM

04/07/2014 2:40 PM

Truffles and bundt and and fudge, oh my!

Chocolate lovers had plenty to choose from at last weekend’s 10th annual ChocolateFest.

The two-day event kicked off Friday with An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at Delaney Vineyards. Admission included wine and chocolate tastings, music and a silent auction.

Proceeds from the chocolatey goodness benefited Travelers Aid Dallas/Fort Worth. The non-profit organization has helped distressed passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport since 1974 — assisting about 65,000 clients annually.

“It was very much well worth it,” executive director Bruce Freeman said of the chocolate and art festival. “And it was fun.”

After Friday’s tasty evening, Saturday was a showcase for A Day of Chocolate and Art at Grapevine’s Palace Arts Center. Highlights included art exhibits, chocolate sampling and children decorating chocolate with edible paints.

Two-year-old Caiden painted with pink and blue sparkle gel as parents Holly and Chris Cates looked on.

“It’s my birthday,” said Holly, 35, who was joined on the holiday excursion by six siblings. “It’s chocolate. It’s like my dream come true.”

Caiden was joined at a painting table by 6-year-old twins Janiyah and Mariyah, who when they grow up want to be a princess and Tinkerbell respectively.

Mom Katrina Johnson was part of a six-person team from Remington College, which offers a diploma in baking and pastry art.

Johnson, who will receive her diploma in July, said her dream is to set up a catering business “and be my own boss.”

The school’s pastry arts program chair, chef Jeff Johnston, said their bakers turned out 750 pieces of chocolate for the charity venue, which he said gives exposure to the non-profit school and students the opportunity to mingle with the public.

“It’s good just to give back,” the chef said of their contribution to a good cause.

The popular event traces it roots to an idea by Freeman of Travelers Aid.

The admitted chocoholic was watching a Food Network segment on a chocolate festival in Norman, Okla., and said to himself, “There’s money in chocolate.”

“You’d never have thought it, but there is,” Freeman said.

He took his idea to the board of directors of Travelers Aid Dallas/Fort Worth. They agreed it was a sweet idea for a charity event.

“Ten years later, there we are,” Freeman said, adding that last year’s two-day festival raised about $48,000.

The city provides at no cost the venue, its expertise and volunteers, he said.

“We get support from the festival staff, which you can’t put a value on,” Freeman said.

Annual festivals and events, including ChocolateFest, bring more than two million guests to Grapevine each year.

“Festivals and events provide local organizations with a platform to raise money, enabling them to make a difference for the charities and initiatives that they are passionate about,” said Paul W. McCallum, executive director of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As a result of the partnership between city staff, local stakeholders and volunteers in developing and promoting these annual festivals and events, Grapevine was named a World Festival & Event City by the International Festival & Events Association.”

Proceeds from ChocolateFest benefit the organization that has assisted distressed passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport for four decades. The agency has helped people stranded at the airport during 9/11 and other disasters, including evacuees from hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.

Travelers Aid also assists families, individuals and members of the military who are in crisis or transition or are separated from their normal support systems. The organization provides assistance through several other programs including: Client Intervention, Local Transportation, Volunteer Information and Lost and Found. It also helps clients at the Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fort Worth.

“It was the 40th anniversary of our agency and 10th anniversary of our festival, so that worked well,” Freeman said.

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