Art of Chocolate Festival at Featherstone starts Friday

See and try all things chocolate this weekend at Featherstone's Art of Chocolate Festival. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Featherstone ups the “kid in a candy shop” metaphor a few notches with this weekend’s Art of Chocolate Festival. Imagine walking into a space where every turn of the head reveals another sublime chocolate treat — chocolate in every imaginable, delectable form, and you get an idea of what the very popular annual event is like.

The eighth annual Art of Chocolate festival features a Friday night preview party — where you can enjoy the dream-come-true experience of sampling everything your heart desires — and Saturday and Sunday afternoon pay-as-you-taste events. The Saturday Art Adventure for kids this weekend will be a chocolate-themed art class where kids will help prepare chocolate goodies and create chocolate-themed paintings.

This year’s theme for the preview party is S’mores and More. An outdoor firepit will be the scene for constructing the gooey confections. Adding to the camping-out feel, Bruce McNally will play the guitar on the outside patio, where a bar will offer up chocolate martinis, champagne, and dessert wines, although true chocoholics know that chocolate is intoxicant enough.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, the chocolate fantasy world will be open from 12 noon to 4 pm. Guests can sample from a sundae bar and a chocolate fountain dipping station, along with displays of cakes, brownies, cookies, pastries, and hand-dipped chocolates donated by a number of local businesses. The attention grabber of the festival (along with the chocolate fountain) is an enormous multi-layered cake from Cakes by Liz.

Among the restaurants and caterers who will contribute goodies are Orange Peel Bakery (chocolate snails), The Scottish Bakehouse (gluten-free macaroons), Farm Neck Cafe (chocolate cake), and Slice of Life (chocolate mousse). New to the lineup this year are The Newes From America Pub, which will provide chocolate bread pudding with cherry ganache, and Kitchen Porch Caterers, who have a surprise in store.

Offering proof that art and chocolate go together, a number of Featherstone affiliated artists will, as usual, be whipping up their specialties for the event.

Washington Ledesma will once again serve up his famous rum-rich drunken cake. Other artists/bakers who will contribute to the chocolate cause are Kathy Rose (biscotti), Nancy Blank (chocolate-covered chestnuts), Marston Clough (truffles), Carl Mueller (chocolate crinkles), and Donna Blackburn (chocolate sauce).

For the chocolate purist, there will be plenty of homemade chocolate candy available. New Moon Magick will offer almond butter crunch, Dorothy Cox will provide her fabulous chocolate-covered cranberries, and Brenda Mastramonica of the renowned chocolatier Hilliard family will be on hand with a tempering and dipping demonstration. Chilmark Chocolates is closed right now, but Featherstone guests will have the opportunity to purchase some.

If you want to justify a visit to the festival with a learning experience that goes beyond comparing marshmallow toasting techniques, you can peruse cookbooks and books about chocolate, check out pictures of Mexican cocoa plantations and cranberry bogs, and view a display of artifacts from the early days of chocolate making. The photos and tools of the chocolate trade are from the collection of Jeanne and Malcolm Campbell, who provided the inspiration for the first chocolate festival.

Ms. Campbell’s father owned the former Van Leer Chocolate Company in Jersey City for many years. Mr. Campbell spent his career working for the company. Says Ms. Campbell, “It was a very family business. My father, brother, husband, two sons, and my brother’s two sons were all involved.” The Campbell’s daughter Jan worked for the company during summers off from college and eventually founded Chilmark Chocolates in 1984.

The Campbell’s always make a point of spending the weekend talking to people about their former business and discussing their travels over the years. The couple has visited chocolate factories all over Europe and, for years, they made regular trips to the international confection show in Düsseldorf, Germany.

“The chocolate world had been very good to us,” Ms. Campbell says. “The people who work in chocolate are proud of what they do and they enjoy it. And they make us enjoy it.”

The chocolate world has also been very good to Featherstone. The annual festival is hugely popular — 1,000 guests are expected this year — and all proceeds go towards funding the community arts center, which sponsors a variety of classes and hosts numerous summer events and a regular schedule of gallery exhibits throughout the year.

Says Featherstone director Ann Smith, “It is a fundraiser but it’s also meant to introduce new people to Featherstone. We have loyal followers who come every year but, since it’s on Columbus Day weekend, we also get new visitors.”

Art of Chocolate Festival Preview Party: S’Mores & More, Friday, Oct. 7, 7 to 9 pm. $50.

Saturday and Sunday, 12 noon–4 pm. Admission is free. $5 for two samples, $10 for three.

Saturday Art Adventure for kids: The Reason I Like Chocolate with Lani Carney, Oct. 8, from 9 am to 12 noon. For ages 3-8. $45. Pre-register: 508-693-1850.