Chocolate lovers of all ages came out for the 9th Annual 360 Youth Services’ Chocolate Festival. The event featured local chocolate vendors, a cookie stacking competition and baking demonstrations.
Visitors won a golden ticket when they saw the Executive Director of 360 Youth Services, Ron Hume, dressed up as Willy Wonka, the king of chocolate.
“We were at a meeting with all our volunteers before the chocolate festival and one of them said ‘Oh we need a Willy Wonka there,’” said Hume. “I was the only guy at the meeting, and here I am.”
After visitors took in the different displays, it was time for the main event. Every year, the Sweet Treats baking competition draws contestants of all ages.
Each judge rates the entries divided into adult and child divisions for cookies, candies, brownies, and cakes. Treats are then judged on creativity, taste, and presentation. Although entries were scored on an official ballot, the judges could use personal preference when voting.
“I like fluffy appearance with a little bit of flare,” said celebrity judge Pamela Davis, the CEO and President of Edward Hospital.
“I was mainly looking for the taste of it, because that’s always the most important part,” said Breanne Dunfee, another judge.
The room was locked while judging, and opened to a flood of people anxious to know the winners, and taste the many entries. Winners caught the judges’ eye with unforgettable tastes and attention to detail.
“There was a recipe for a pure chocolate brownie and I thought, wow this is really good,” said Joey Delahoussaye, who placed in the brownie, cake, and cookie categories. “The next time I tried to make it even more decadent by adding cream to it. I added a caramel sauce and Nutella.”
When explaining the process of molding chocolate, Sara Carloss, winner in the brownie division said, “You had to melt chocolate and put it in the bag one at a time and keep letting it set and once it set, you peeled the chocolate off.”
Kaley Letcher claimed first prize in the child cake division for the second year in a row with her apple themed cupcakes. Her title ‘An Apple a Day Makes the Chocolate Ok,’ stood out to the judges.
“I don’t really like apples,” Letcher said. “I like cupcakes so I interpreted that to make it better for me.”
The event raised thousands of dollars for the not-for-profit, but Hume said Chocolate Festival has never been about the money.
“This is more of a friend raiser than a fund raiser for us,” Hume said. “We have different events, but they tend to be more adult events. And because we serve children, we wanted to do something for the community that says come together, just have some fun. We’ll have a good time and we’ll do chocolate and we’ll do a lot of things for kids.”
Chocolate Festival planners are already looking forward to next year. They might even add another category to the competition.
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