Chocolate lovers will have their dreams come true Saturday at Chocolatefest Knoxville. The event will be held at the World’s Fair Exhibition Hall with more than 45 vendors and around 15 chocolate makers in attendance.
Sweet treats such as chocolate-covered strawberries, fudge and candy bars will be available at the event.
The history of Chocolatefest is anything but straightforward. The event originally was organized by the National Kidney Foundation for 25 years. The event was dropped, yet resurfaced five years later under the direction of promoter Jennifer Johnsey. This marks the fifth year of the revived Chocolatefest.
“People still get confused and think it is the original festival,” Johnsey said. “It was a staple in Knoxville for years. I was worried about bringing it back because I didn’t know whether or not we could do the event (justice). Things turned out well the first year. We had a bigger crowd than anticipated. People were out in full force and wrapped around the building to get inside. It was amazing.”
More than 2,000 people are expected to attend Chocolatefest.
“It will be a great time for the whole family,” Johnsey said. “Even if you don’t like (or can’t have) chocolate, people can still walk around and check out the various shows and events. We will have the Little Miss Chocolatefest Pageant, Southern Taps Clogging Company, Oak Ridge Civic Ballet Association & The Dance Centre, and other performers. The main thing is that money raised goes to a worthy cause, the Knoxville Ronald McDonald House.”
The general admission of $5 goes to the McDonald House. Tasting tickets are $25 and allow true chocolate aficionados the chance to sample candies from various vendors. Tasting times are at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“Tasting ticket holders sit at a table and are brought samples by Chocolatefest waiters,” Johnsey said. “The emcee tells them what they are tasting and where they can get more.”
Johnsey encourages attendees to buy tasting tickets as soon as possible. “The tickets sell fast,” she said. “We cannot guarantee anybody a tasting ticket on the day of the show as we can only seat a limited number of people. I encourage people to buy the tickets before the show at chocolatefestknoxville.com.”
Rita Key and her daughter, Susan Key, run a business in Talbott called The Chocolate Ladies. The duo’s sugar cookie truffle won best overall item at last year’s event. Will The Chocolate Ladies win again this year?
“You always want to win, but it is totally up to the chocolate tasters that vote on their favorites,” Rita Key said. “We will have a variety of candies at the show, including cremes, dipped cookies and salted caramel bars.
Creating candy relies greatly on experience and creativity, Rita Key said.
“I have been making candy for over 35 years,” she said. “I am a former home economics teacher. I started making candy for friends and special occasions. The demand increased, and we had to move it out of the kitchen and into our own shop.”
Kim Holden runs her business, Kim’s Kandies, at home. She has been a vendor at the show for four years.
“The business is more of a hobby. I own a greenhouse, and when things were slow, I would make candy; it blew up from there,” Holden said. “At Chocolatefest, sometimes I put out a candy display for weddings featuring bride and groom strawberries, (candy covered) pretzel sticks, and white chocolate covered popcorn.”
Holden said presentation is key to being successful at a chocolate festival. “People like a good presentation,” she said. “You need a neat, clean appearance or people will walk away. A solid presentation encourages people to look at your table more, which really helps move product.”