On the last day of this month, the smell of chocolate will flood a Fort Smith library.
This will happen courtesy the 10th annual Chocolate Festival, which will be 2:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Fort Smith Public Library's Dallas Branch, 8100 Dallas St., said Jennifer Goodson, director of the Fort Smith Public Library. The all-ages event raises money for the Friends of the Library, an auxiliary group of the library, and is expected to draw the attention and taste buds of many area residents and visitors, she said.
"This is one of our favorite times of the year, and it's because of the Chocolate Festival," Goodson said. "We can always look forward to lots and lots of people coming to the Dallas Branch.
"It's fun to see families, couples and singles of all ages coming in for the Chocolate Festival," she added. "Seeing their eyes light up when they see all of the different chocolates that are offered is exciting."
Each year, the event is hosted by the Friends of the Fort Smith Public Library to invite local businesses, clubs, organizations and individuals to demonstrate their culinary skills by offering their favorite chocolate samplings. The chocolate can be homemade creations or the chocolate can be purchased from a store, bakery or caterer; participating groups are asked to bring at least 200 chocolate samples to give to those who attend the festival.
"This is such a great family event, and there's always lots of chocolate to choose from each year," Goodson said.
Samples must provide a generous taste and need to be about half the size of a standard serving. A sample can be two small cookies or one large cookie; a normal-sized pie most likely would create 24 samples.
The festival, which raises money for the Friends of the Fort Smith Public Library to provide ongoing support for the library, is the "perfect opportunity" for groups, businesses and individuals to boost their visibility in the area, said Diane Holwick, assistant director for the Fort Smith Public Library. Participants are welcome to hand out business cards and information flyers at their respective tables during the event.
"The Chocolate Festival is great because so many community groups and individuals come out to support the library," Holwick said. "The offerings are always varied, creative and delicious.
"And it’s a fun and inexpensive way for our customers and friends to come out and give back to the library," she added. "Who doesn’t love chocolate?"
Among the "tasty delights" offered in the past were triple-chocolate cookies, chocolate fudge cupcakes, chocolate-dipped cookie dough bites, caramel brownies, the "Build A Brownie" bar and the "Choose It Yourself" chocolate buffet, Goodson said.
"The Friends of the Library has been around for many years, and in 2018, they are on track to provide $45,000 in supplemental funding for the library," she said. "They help us with all kinds of extras. They underwrite almost all of our summer reading program, they buy extra books and DVDs for the library and they pay the fees for a lot of the performers who come to the library."
Carol Burns, board president for the Friends of the Library, said the lure of chocolate-covered caramel and other treats have inspired her to attend the Chocolate Festival the last four years.
"It's a great function, and the value of the products that are offered — tickets are $7 — is just out of this world," Burns said. "It's one of the most fun Sundays you can have."
Registration for a table for the Chocolate Festival is free for individuals, clubs, organizations and businesses wishing to have a table at the event. Registration can be done by emailing JGoodson@FortSmithLibrary.org and by faxing (479) 782-8571. The deadline to register is Thursday.
Tickets for the public to attend are $7 and will include six samples and a to-go box. Tickets can be purchased at all Fort Smith Public Library locations and at the door.
"Before you even walk into the building, you will be able to smell the chocolate," Goodson said. "The fun starts right there when you walk in the door."