NORMAN — The ballroom at the National Center for Employee Development was buzzing with excitement Saturday as individuals drifted from vendor to vendor taste testing a variety of chocolate treats.
The 32nd Annual Chocolate Festival featured 22 vendors this year, all showcasing a number of sweet treats including cake, truffles, ice cream and more. There were even some unexpected edibles available.
Volunteer Lesha Maag tried some chocolate chili at the event describing it as spicy, but sweet and savory. While she hadn’t been to the festival since she was a little girl, she said the experience is something she plans to repeat.
“It was really fun,” Maag said, adding that she plans to volunteer again next year.
Proceeds from the festival are used to support the visual arts education, exhibits and programs offered by the Firehouse Art Center in Norman.
Douglas Elder, executive director of the Firehouse Art Center, said he estimated this year they have had their biggest turnout yet. Ticket sales were right on target and there were a lot of walk-ins keeping everyone busy throughout the entire day, he said.
“I estimate there were about 3,000 people here today,” Elder said.
The Chocolate Festival originally started at the Firehouse Art Center, outgrowing that building and moving to the high school before it found a home at the NCED. Elder said he is thankful for their partnership with the NCED which provides a wonderful space for the event.
“Frank Barry provided the music today,” Elder said. “After getting their chocolate, people can go in front and sit a quite a nice area and listen to music.”
As vendors surrounded the walls of the ballroom, there were also numerous activity tables to engage individuals in some creative art. A free photo booth also attracted the crowd, as several struck silly poses with available props.
Elder said if no one has ever been to the festival they are really missing out.
“This is a full-scale professional production,” he said, adding that everyone from NCED to restaurants and vendors all worked together and have shown great leadership for the event.
“What’s most important is that everyone had a great time,” Elder said.
A new vendor this year, Sprout’s, said they felt like the event was very successful and enjoyed interacting with people in the community.
“(I enjoyed) meeting people and telling people about our store,” said Sprout’s employee Edie Rasmussen, as employee Kristen Fling added, “and hearing everyone tell us how happy they are Sprouts is in Norman.”
Green said Sprouts brought about 4,200 pieces of individual chocolate samples with an additional 132 pounds of bulk chocolate for sampling. The store, still somewhat new to Norman after opening in March 2013, set out three types of dark chocolate for the attendees to taste test.
“I think it was very successful. I enjoyed it,” said store manager Ron Green. “It was fun. I like doing things that involve the community and it was nice to visit with the other business owners.”
Elder also wanted to give a big thank you to all of the volunteers and sponsors who helped with the event, as well as The Norman Transcript.
“All of the nonprofits in Norman, including the Firehouse, benefit greatly from The Transcript coverage. We’re so appreciative of them highlighting events and their support of arts and culture,” he said.
The Norman Firehouse Art Center is a non-profit organization that has served Norman and surrounding communities since 1971. They provide award-winning visual art education for children and adults and gallery exhibitions.
Classes at the art center include ceramics, sculpture, painting and drawing, jewelry construction, stone carving, fused and slumped glass and more.
Elder said the classes include instructions for those as young as 5-years-old and they even have a program that involves the elementary schools, serving about 4,000 children.
For more information visit normanfirehouse.com.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.