Local Leaders Collaborate for Inaugural Hoosier Chocolate Fest
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Steve Latour, executive director of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce, says the upcoming inaugural Hoosier Chocolate Fest is the result of a simple idea, yet one that has not previously been put into practice locally.
“I have been to a couple different chocolate festivals in my day,” Latour says. “I had gone to one down in French Lick and thought it was really cool how they did it down there. I did some research up here, and no one does anything like that here in this region. I looked around and made sure no one else was doing it.”
Last fall Latour took the next step and began reaching out to other local leaders to see if a collaborative effort toward a chocolate festival concept would be feasible.
“I recruited Allyson [Gutwein], my friend at the Zionsville Chamber who is the executive director, and then Kegan [Schmicker], who is the executive director of the Tipton County Chamber, and told them I have this idea that would be fun to do,” he says. “I know that our bakeries and people who do chocolate don’t really have anything special for them here that isn’t wrapped into the craft fair, bazaar and farmers market events, so I knew that this could be unique and special just for them. I asked the other chamber leaders if they wanted to do something together that we could promote and work on. We all got together and met, and hammered out the details.”
The team reserved space at the Bridgewater Club and decided on February 12 for the inaugural event.
“The concept is that there will be a VIP night on the Friday night before, and then Saturday the 12th we’ll have the actual fest that’s open to the public,” Latour explains, adding that the event will feature live music. “We’ll have an afternoon session and an evening session. You’ll buy your ticket to come in, and the idea is that there will be tables in the middle of the room so you can eat all the chocolate you want. There will be different things to try, and you’ll get some chocolate to go.”
Latour says each of the chamber leaders will invite top-tier members for Friday’s VIP event.
“We might invite some other key partners and sponsors of the program to come for Friday as well,” Latour adds. “Since it takes a little bit of time to get a lot of this set up, we thought we could get set up for a special night on Friday, and then that way we’re ready to go for Saturday.”
There will be additional space in the building devoted to a mixology demonstration, as well as a chocolate-based cooking demonstration.
“Another fun thing is that we’ll have some of the chocolate vendors around the room, so if you like something you can go get more, or get with them for future events and things you may want to do for yourself,” Latour adds.
Companies based in Zionsville, Westfield, Tipton County and beyond will appear at the event.
“We were very intentional in choosing the name Hoosier Chocolate Fest, and not Westfield Chocolate Fest or something like that, because we’re hoping over the years this will grow, and really become a regional destination event over a couple of days that people can enjoy,” Latour says.
Latour says the two main motivators behind launching the event are the opportunity to promote local businesses, and also to provide the participating chamber organizations with a chance to work together on what they hope will be an annual event.
“We’re hoping it catches on and that we can make it bigger and bigger in the years to come,” Latour says. “It’s really a chance to highlight some outstanding chocolate companies and bakeries here in this region that a lot of people don’t know about.”
Interest from vendors has been high since the event team began reaching out to local chocolate makers, according to Latour.
“We’ve heard people say, ‘Whoa, this is great. I’m in,’” he says. “That feels good. People are pretty excited about it, and we’ve mentioned it to our different boards and they’re excited. With the date that it’s on, we think it will be a fun Valentine’s Day outing for people to go on besides just dinner and a movie. It’s all coming together and it should be fun.”
Additional details including registration and ticket info can be found at hoosierchocolatefest.com.