The third annual chocolate festival offered lots of sweet treats to satisfy any sweet tooth Saturday, Sept. 29 in downtown Topeka.
The festival had many fun events to keep everyone entertained while the copious amounts of chocolates and treats being sold and given away kept everyone happy. There was chocolate popcorn, chocolate pretzels, brownies, cake and even treats for furry friends. All manner of chocolates and sweets were available at this event.
The event, hosted by Visit Topeka, has been a hit for the last two years so this year’s success came as no surprise. The citizens of Topeka can’t get enough chocolate.
The day started out with the Combat Air Museum Chocolate 5K/10K. The race began at 8 a.m. It was a good way to burn some calories before the day of chocolate began. The festival had something for those of all ages. For younger kids there were bouncy houses, costumed figures, such as the different-colored M&Ms and other cartoon characters and many vendors handing out free sweets.
One of the most popular booths was Hazel Hill that allowed attendees to dip pretzels and strawberries in chocolate. For those that wanted something more substantial to eat, there were several food trucks set up in the middle of the festival with live music playing throughout the day.
Children were given bags to collect various chocolate, candy and other small prizes that were handed out at the booths.
“It feels almost like Halloween going from table to table and getting free candy,” said 10-year-old Josie Currier.
While most chocolate vendors lined the streets, Equity Bank at 7th and S. Kansas Ave. offered an inside location for chocolate lovers.
“We were asked by Go Topeka to provide an inside venue,” Jeff Larison told the Topeka Capital Journal. “Equity loved the idea of having it here. We thought it was a great space, and we love showing our beautiful building. It’s on the national historic register and looks the same as when it was built in 1926.”
The line for the chocolate vendors inside the bank was long, and extended onto the street. The vendors that were housed inside were Hazel Hill, Glacier Confection, Pacari, Kakao Chocolate and Sweet Granada.
Although the festival is a well-known hit with children, adults in this area are also in love with this annual event. Cooking classes and demonstrations were given throughout the day.
The demonstrations included, how chocolate is grown, processed and made, the future of chocolate, the difference between gourmet and regular chocolate and how the beans are turned into chocolate. These demonstrations occurred subsequently every hour on the main stage.
Throughout the day many different local chefs gave mini cooking classes on chocolate basics and some of their best recipes. Nick Xidis, owner of Hazel Hill, showed festival-goers how to temper chocolate and make simple chocolates using common items in almost every kitchen. They learned how to make millionaire’s shortbread, M&M peanut mole, chocolate sauerkraut cake and raspberry chocolate covered apples with espresso powder.
“I came to the chocolate festival today solely because Hazel Hill chocolates,” said Alexandra Shaner, attendee who works for Capital Federal bank. “One time Hazel Hill brought us complimentary chocolates at work and I fell in love with them.”
The festival took place downtown on Kansas Avenue, outside Hazel Hill Chocolate. Hazel Hill is a locally owned, and heavily awarded chocolate shop. On their website they tell us about their history and mission.
“Nick and Terry Xidis, owners, invest their hearts and hands in fine chocolate and confectionery. Hazel Hill, Terry’s grandmother, is a symbol of their dedication to a family tradition of ‘the best in everything they do.’”
Nick is a third-generation chocolatier. He continues the company’s traditions of making the chocolate the old-fashioned way with only the finest quality ingredients. The Xidis’s came to Topeka 13 years ago. Nick and Terry’s son, Daniel Xidis, works in the chocolate shop alongside his parents. He is also attending Washburn University. He is a junior studying music performance.
Hazel Hill has been connected with Washburn’s campus in the past. They always table at Bowtie and events alongside other local vendors. They offer finals week care packages filled with chocolate for purchase at their store or online.
Daniel works at Hazel Hill making fudge, caramels and truffles. Truly, a family owned business that takes pride in it’s products, Daniel said that either his mother or father is there everyday to oversee the making of the chocolate. During each chocolate festival, Nick comes up with fun demonstrations that make learning about chocolate fun for children, teenagers and adults.
The chocolate festival has become a success over the past three years, and the mission of this event is to spread the love of chocolate and sweets, but also to increase the amount of people that come to downtown Topeka. The festival gives the businesses in that area an opportunity to open their doors and show what they have to offer, besides delicious chocolate.
“The main goal [of the chocolate festival] is to increase people coming to downtown,” Daniel said. “With the opening of The Pennant and them completely redesigning Kansas Avenue, they are trying to bring people there and perpetuate a sense of community in Topeka.”
There’s no doubt that this year’s chocolate festival accomplished its mission of bringing the citizens of Topeka to downtown to enjoy sweet treats and a sense of community unique to the area.