by Claudia Sherman
Who doesn’t like chocolate?
I do. My family does. My friends do. My rabbi does, too.
It’s time to get your taste buds excited! The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) Omaha Section is presenting its third annual Great Omaha Chocolate Festival from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Embassy Suites/La Vista Conference Center, 12520 Westport Parkway (I-80 and Giles Road). The award-winning chocolate extravaganza will again feature everything from chocolate-covered cherry shaved ice to chocolate cream puffs.
Proceeds from the Chocolate Festival benefit Omaha Section’s community service projects, some of them educational in nature, such as the Child Saving Institute (CSI). Speakers are provided to CSI to talk to teen mothers about healthful eating, relevant laws, budgeting, and early childhood education as part of the Building Bright Futures program.
In addition, school supplies are given to every Jackson Elementary School student on the first day of school and volunteers assist students with reading as part of NCJW’s Jackson School Project. Chocolate Festival funds are also used for mini-grants, awarded to public school teachers for innovative and creative classroom projects not funded by school budgets.
Other beneficiaries are Radio Talking Books, a longtime NCJW project which provides volunteers who create audio programs for the blind. A directory of resources and social services for teenagers in metropolitan Omaha, R.A.F.T. (Resources Available for Teens) is continually updated thanks to funds NCJW raises at the festival.
Funds are also contributed to organizations that assist physically and visually impaired children and adults as well as to other groups that meet specific needs.
“We expect to have about 40 vendors at the Chocolate Festival,” said Jan Fischer, general chairman. That includes Baker’s Candies of Greenwood, Nebraska, which has been the corporate sponsor of the Chocolate Festival since it began in 2011. “We didn’t feel there was any way we could say no to sponsoring a (chocolate) festival in Nebraska,” explained Todd Baker, one of the company’s owners. “The largest chocolate manufacturer in Nebraska,” according to Baker, is family-owned and operated. “We wanted to lend our name and reputation to the festival and add to its credibility. For us, it’s a platform to give away free chocolate samples and interact face-to-face with our customers.”
Baker’s Candies will be handing out samples of its “signature chocolate confection,” the meltaway. “We’ll be bringing a sampling of a variety of our chocolate meltaways and introduce a new flavor,” he added.
Another returnee is Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at Westroads which will be selling caramel apples. Nothing Bundt Cakes will be giving away bite-size samples of chocolate-chocolate chip, white chocolate raspberry, white chocolate blueberry, and red velvet bundt cakes. The store also hopes to have bundtinis, mini bundt cakes, this year.
Featuring white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and salt caramels, Chocolaterie Stam is another repeat vendor.
New chocolate merchants at the festival this year include SMEJ’s Snacks & More, Hiland Dairy, and Kona Ice. Marty Rosenstein, owner of SMEJ’s, is bringing candy, popcorn, Rocky Road candy, and what Rosenstein called “nostalgia candy bags” or old-time candy. Hiland Dairy will be giving away chocolate milk to cleanse the palette for the next bite of chocolate. Kona Ice, owned by Lori Rewczuk, will offer 20 flavors of shaved ice including chocolate-covered cherry. Or, she said, “We can make up any flavor requested right there on the spot.”
“Everyone I talked with, from the book group to my maj friends loved the Chocolate Festival,” said Cathy Christensen who is again among NCJW festival volunteers. After all, “What woman doesn’t like chocolate? Besides that, they were surprised that there were so many places that could be tied to chocolate!”
Many men have a chocolate tooth, too. “Last year’s event was terrific, well organized, and with numerous vendors who appeared to be doing very well promoting their products,” said Marty Ricks. “At the time I was there to observe and shop, many were in attendance, and it appeared there was amazing energy on all sides.”
“All ages are welcome,” added Fischer. Admission for two- to ten-year-olds is $3 which is worth three free samples. For anyone older, admission is $5, which entitles them to five free samples of chocolate. Additional sample tickets can be purchased, or products can be purchased directly from vendors.
“We need lots of volunteers that day to set up, to work the ticket booth, to help vendors, and to sell sample and raffle tickets,” Fischer indicated. There were 120 volunteers last year. To volunteer, contact Sarah Spooner at 402.689.8024 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Angela Friedman at 402.319.8794 or email@example.com, Esther Meiches at 402.397.3434, Cathy Christensen at 402.493.3514 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lise Sasson at 402.203.4065 or email@example.com.