Although it may have been a similar temperature outside Friday, the people rushing through the doors were not Black Friday shoppers. They were chocolate connoisseurs, anxiously waiting to get their fill of delicious treats at the annual Samaritan Caregivers Chocolate Celebration.
By 11:15 a.m., Kokomo First Church of the Nazarene was filled to the brim with people of all ages, slowly shuffling from booth to booth while eyeing all of the goodies, ranging from chocolate cakes to brownies to chocolate-covered strawberries to doughnuts. In total, 47 vendors were redeeming tickets for chocolate items, a new record for the event.
One of the most popular items, Create-A-Cake’s Turtle Cake, was sold out within the first 25 minutes. About 10 minutes later, the last of the oversized Chocolate-Dipped Rice Krispie Treats were sold. All that was left were about a dozen slices of a Chocolate-Dipped Cherry Cake Roll.
John Lowry, owner of the custom cake business, said this year may have been the fastest they have ever sold out in the seven years they have participated.
“We brought way over 100 turtle cakes and they were just gone in 25 minutes,” Lowry said.
But don’t worry — the decadent cakes will be back next year.
“We have to make the same thing every year — we have to make turtle cake and Rice Krispie Treats — or we’d get run out of town,” Lowry laughed. “One year I messed up the Rice Krispie Treats and didn’t bring any — thank goodness we were in a church!”
So Good Candies, a Peru candy store, was a vendor for the first time this year. The business, owned by Fred and Amy Stadtler and Rick Ploss, has been making fudge, chocolate, creams and candy bars with the original 100-year-old recipes used by the beloved Arnold’s Candies, a former Peru staple that closed in 2006.
At the Chocolate Celebration, So Good Candies served up a four-piece assortment containing the famous fudge, chocolate-covered creams and caramel.
“We knew that it was going to be very busy and very crazy, but we are happy to bring our chocolates to Kokomo,” Fred Stadtler said.
Amid the controlled chaotic atmosphere, Stadtler said that he really enjoyed connecting with people who remember Arnold’s Candies and still love the chocolate.
“A lot of people are coming here and reliving stories, saying ‘Oh my gosh, you guys are back!’” he said. “They didn’t even know we were in Peru anymore, so they were happy to rediscover us.”
The event was also a competition between the vendors for the categories of best table display, and Critics’ Choice in baked goods, candy, beverage and miscellaneous.
The critic’s choice for best baked good went to St. Vincent Kokomo for its Hot Cocoa Mini Cheesecakes. Best candy went to Jefferson Manor with signature ganache truffles. Wildtree took home first place in the best beverage for its Peppermint Hot Chocolate, and Burger King was awarded best miscellaneous item for its chocolate and Oreo pies.
The most coveted award of the afternoon was for People’s Choice, which was awarded to Dreams to Reality Cakes for its double-decker chocolate doughnut that redeemed the most tickets.
A new competition — involving lots of chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallow fluff — took place between groups of Kokomo High School Career Arts students. Teams of two constructed chocolate masterpieces, and some went for beachy looks and others worked to make entirely edible buildings and trees.
All of the fun — and chocolate, of course — was for a good cause, raising thousands for Samaritan Caregivers, a nonprofit that helps seniors who want to live at home, otherwise known as “aging in place.”
Jamey Henderson, the executive director of the organization, said the event is about more than just chocolate.
“You get a chance not only to eat chocolate, but be around your friends, family and coworkers. People get their spirits lifted, not just from the chocolate, but from the interaction and seeing people that they haven’t seen for a while,” Henderson said.
“The bottom line is, we do this so we can give free help to people aging in place," he said. "People are here doing something that is fun and enjoyable while they help us help others.”