Chocolate lovers had to wait a few extra months, but their patience paid off on Friday with the 19th annual Samaritan Caregivers Chocolate Celebration.

A line stretched around Kokomo First Church of the Nazarene as patrons waited for the doors to open. Within an hour, 1,400 tickets had been tallied.

Stephanie Bolinger, of Kokomo, and Jane Williams, of Logansport, contributed to the total and did not leave empty handed.

Bolinger joked she had been saving up — not money but calories — a month in advance for the Chocolate Celebration. She got one treat for herself, but the rest of the items in her bag were for others.

“This is stuff you can’t eat every week,” Bolinger said.

It was Williams’ first time at the event, and she was not disappointed. Unlike Bolinger, Williams planned to hide her treats from her kids.

“I knew it would be amazing,” she said. “I think it’s fabulous.”

The annual event was bumped back to May due to the coronavirus. Usually held before Valentine’s Day, Friday offered the opportunity for some last-minute Mother’s Day gifts for the thoughtful shopper.

Event chair Courtney Cain said the better weather likely resulted in a strong turnout to start the Chocolate Celebration.

“We definitely had a larger crowd than what we usually do at opening,” she said.

The fundraiser raises between $18,000 and $20,000 a year for the nonprofit organization serving Howard County residents 65 and older who live on their own.

“It’s extremely important to Samaritan Caregivers and our services,” Cain said.

It also makes it an easy event to get behind.

Tastefully Indiana was one of seven new vendors to join this year’s lineup. The bakery at 3700 S. LaFountain St. is owned by Amy Stier and her husband. Stier has participated in the Chocolate Celebration in the past with other businesses, so joining with her new bakery was an easy decision.

“We always have fun at this,” Stier said. “ … And Samaritan Caregivers is a great concept.”

Tastefully Indiana offered its chocolate mint Bundt cake and black forest brownie and sold out in a couple hours.

Lucky Lemon Bakery was another newcomer for the 19th installment of the Chocolate Celebration. Located at 830 E. Markland Ave. and owned by Heather Dame, Lucky Lemon offers vegan baked goods and food.

Alexandra Radetzky manned the Lucky Lemon booth.

“I really wanted to be a part of the chocolate,” she said.

But it was also an opportunity to show how vegan sweet treats compare to their regular counterparts. The community seemed receptive too, as the bakery also sold out of their ticketed goods.

“It’s been really great being a first-time vendor,” Radetzky said.

Other vendors like Trilogy Health Services, return year after year.

Trilogy always has a theme, too. This year’s theme had booth workers decked out in nursing outfits, a nod to nurses’ hard work throughout the pandemic. May 6-12 is also National Nurses Week.

“We thought this would be the best way to honor nurses across the country,” said Rebecah Tharp of Trilogy.

Tharp made fudge brownies that also included a Rice Krispies treat, dark chocolate and white chocolate drizzle. The themed booth and brownies were a hit. Trilogy had one of the busier booths.

“We want to support the local businesses and Samaritan Caregivers,” Tharp said. “It’s an amazing way of giving back to the community.”

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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