The Chocolate Festival: Art in good taste
In 2003, Francine Kelly, executive director of Featherstone Center for the Arts, encouraged by Featherstone supporters including Jeanne and Malcolm Campbell of Van Leer Chocolate, created a three-day celebration of all things chocolate.
"We wanted to acquaint more people with Featherstone, so we named it the Art of Chocolate so we could get away with it," Ms. Kelly says, explaining the impetus for the event.
With her experience as the Director of Community Initiatives at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Ms. Kelly knows what attracts visitors to an event. "The Art of Chocolate Festival was almost a no-brainer," she says, crediting the expertise of the Campbells, and of her daughter Janet Smith Gomez, who worked for Master Food Company, makers of M&Ms and Dove chocolate.
Now an annual offering held on Columbus Day weekend, the Art of Chocolate Festival has grown into a much-anticipated event. "People are coming up to me and asking when the next one will be," Ms. Kelly says, "or what might be different about this one as opposed to the previous five. The fact that I'm being asked tells me that Featherstone is becoming somewhat synonymous with the chocolate festival, which is just fine by me."
This year's festival will give Islanders and visitors an opportunity to satisfy more than just their sweet teeth.
"I approached Brian Ditchfield and his wife, Brooke Hardman Ditchfield, of ArtFarm Enterprises, about the possibility of working with Featherstone, specifically The Art of Chocolate Festival" Ms. Kelly says. "They were thrilled to be a part of it - so much so that they scripted a play called 'Love by Chocolate,' which will be performed on Friday night."
For a $50 donation, attendees at Friday's preview Donor Party will have the opportunity to take part in an interactive chocolate experience. All will automatically become subjects in the Kingdom of Featherstone, where the princess is seeking a mate. All suitors will try to entice the princess with their offerings of unique chocolate treats. And as the princess tastes the different samples of chocolates, so will the rest of the Kingdom - the audience. Once the princess makes her decision, the royal couple will be married and all will adjourn to the gallery for their reception. And what a reception it will be.
In addition to the champagne and chocolate martinis, guests will indulge in a lavish spread that includes Chilmark Chocolates, Rickard's Bakery Brownies, New Moon Majick Almond Butter Crunch, and Scottish Bakehouse macaroons, among others. Chocolatier Dorothy Cox will serve her chocolate-covered cranberries, Brenda Mastromonaco returns with her tempered chocolate treats (chocolate-covered ginger, pretzels, etc), and Cakes by Liz will provide the delicious chocolate wedding cake.
One of the popular offerings is the chocolate fountain, a chance to drench your choice of fruit or cake in rich, warm chocolate. In addition, artists who have an affiliation with Featherstone have been asked to donate their favorite chocolate recipes.
The festival on Saturday provides the same assortment of treats, all tastefully arranged for purchase on tables in the gallery. ($5 for two; $10 for five).
There will be a film continually shown in the front room of the gallery detailing the process of chocolate making, beginning with the "pod," and continuing to the wrapper. There will also be a film on the discovery of chocolate.
Chocolate is not only delicious, it's now fun, it's interactive, it's educational, and this weekend at the Featherstone Center of the Arts, it's in abundance.
The Art of Chocolate Festival, Donor Party: Friday, Oct. 9, 7 pm-9 pm. $50 donation. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10 & 11, 12 noon-4 pm. Featherstone Center for the Arts, Oak Bluffs. Two treats for $5; five for $10. 508-693-1850.
Ray Whitaker, of Oak Bluffs, is a freelance writer who hosts local trivia nights and WMVY's "Just Four Guys."