September 24 will be one sweet Saturday in Downtown Topeka.
The possibilities are almost endless at the inaugural Kansas Chocolate Festival from 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. along South Kansas Avenue between 6th and 10th. Have a picture taken with an M&M’S character, check out the M&M NASCAR, even shop at the limited MARS retail booth, all while viewing chocolate-themed demonstrations, tasting samples by local, regional and national chocolatiers, enjoying live music, making chocolate art, sipping chocolate martinis, getting a pedicure with a chocolate scrub, even buying chocolate diamonds – and more.
“We expect the Kansas Chocolate Festival to become an iconic event that allows Topeka to be highlighted with an internationally known brand,” said Brett Oetting, president and CEO of Visit Topeka. “The entire world knows Mars products, especially M&M’s and Snickers, but they may not know they are made right here in Topeka. Mars has been great to work with and the first ever festival would not be what it is without them.”
No admission will be charged as chocolate fans of all ages explore. Vendors, food trucks with chocolate themed meals and downtown shops will have items for sale.
Mars Chocolate North America opened its Topeka factory in 2014, where Peanut M&M’s and Snickers are produced. The company’s presence in Topeka inspired Visit Topeka to develop the Kansas Chocolate Festival almost two years ago. The result will be for everyone to enjoy Sept. 24.
“Team Topeka is very excited to be part of the first Kansas Chocolate Festival." said Carrie Lavery, Mars Chocolate Topeka Community Ambassador. “We have some really fun, interactive activities planned and we know it’s going to be a huge success. We’re looking forward to spending the day with our neighbors and sharing with them the pride we have in the Topeka community.”
Mars is just one local business pulling out all the stops to make the day amazing.
Among the 15 participating downtown businesses, Avenue Hair Salon will offer manicures and pedicures with a chocolate scrub, David’s Jewelers will offer chocolate covered strawberries for customers and 20 percent off chocolate and colored diamonds until 3 p.m. Topeka’s local chocolatier, Hazel Hill Chocolate Traditions, will offer a series of demonstrations throughout the day.
“We are thrilled that the Downtown Topeka business community is rallying behind this new and exciting event,” said Rosa Cavazos, director of tourism development for Visit Topeka. “We know that there are visitors traveling from across the country for the Kansas Chocolate Festival and it’s a great opportunity to showcase Topeka.”
Chocolate-based crafts for all ages will be offered at Fabtastics, Leaping Llamas and Prairie Glass. Reliant Apparel will sell shirts and coffee mugs with the Kansas Chocolate Festival logo and offer chocolate samples. Wolfe’s Camera is offering a discount on all chocolate brown merchandise as well as offering chocolate samples. Also offering chocolate samples: Absolute Design by Brenda, Tammi’s Antiques & Floral.
Several restaurants will offer discounts for the day and chocolate-themed menu items, including Celtic Fox (chocolate and white chocolate martini special), Classic Bean (chocolate martinis, espresso chocolate martini, mocha polar ice cap, triple chocolate cookies and cake on special), Cashmere Popcorn, HHB BBQ, Juli’s Coffee and Bistro and Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant (Mexican hot chocolate). Moburts will be open and participating in a main stage demonstration. Many other downtown businesses will be open for regular business hours that day.
Each of the opportunities offered was created and planned by the business. Hazel Hill will offer seven different demonstrations, on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The main chocolate demonstration stage, at 9th and South Kansas Avenues, will feature demonstrations beginning on the half-hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In addition, a music stage near 6th and South Kansas Avenues will feature Blazing Mojo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Smith & Liston from 2-4 p.m. Several food trucks are participating as well, each featuring a menu item created with chocolate provided by Mars Chocolate North America.
Five area hotels are offering discounts and chocolate-themed packages as well. More information about those discounts and the first Kansas Chocolate Festival Baking Competition, which will award cash prizes and bragging rights in several categories, can be found at http://www.VisitTopeka.com/KSChocolate.
Festival-goers are encouraged to park on the east side of Hummer Sports Park and take the free Topeka Metro shuttle to 6th and Kansas, between 9:45 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. The shuttle also will take patrons to the Aaron Douglas Art Fair free of charge. The party begins with a 5K/10K run at the Combat Air Museum and continues on the Capitol lawn at 7 p.m. with a showing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
“If you love chocolate, or have family members who do, this is a chance of a lifetime,” Oetting said. “The creativity of our local businesses to add these chocolate-themed experiences is the icing on the chocolate cake.”