Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate

By on October 16, 2013


ROCHELLE A. SHENK Record Express Correspondent

, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston Whitcraftâ?©Tomato Pie Cafe was one of the stops on last weekâ??s Chocolate Walk.

After two days of dreary weather and nearly seven inches of rain, Saturday’s sunny skies that boasted a bit of cloud cover and seasonal temps were perfect for the 12th annual Chocolate Walk.

“Cloudy and a little cool is perfect weather,” said Mark Freeman, one of the founders of Chocolate Walk, which is organized by the Kiwanis Club of the Lititz Area to benefit children. This year’s co-hosts were Wilbur Chocolate, Blue Ridge Communications and Luther Acres.

This chocolate for charity event is a one-of-a-kind experience that combines the delights of chocolate made by candy makers and pastry chefs from throughout the central Pennsylvania area, who donate their time and product, with a stroll through the streets of Lititz. Since its inception, Chocolate Walk has raised over $300,000 for local children’s charities including Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center of Lancaster County, the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, and Lititz Library.

Charlie Stickler of the Kiwanis Club said that the event draws people from as far away as California and Florida and provides an inflow of tourist dollars from its attendees.

He said that the last Chocolate Walk ticket was sold on September 25, making it the fourth year in a row that the event was sold out. That meant that 2,000 people visited 31 tour stops throughout the downtown area to sample creations from chocolatiers and pastry chefs.

“This is a fundraiser that fits well with Lititz since it’s the home of Wilbur Chocolate and Sturgis Pretzels, both of which are stops on the tour,” Freeman said.

For Chocolate Walk, Wilbur not only provided a special chocolate treat for Walkers to sample there was also a treat for the eyes – a whimsical edible sculpture. A self-professed “Disney-holic,” Kathy Blankenbiller again wowed participants with her magical creation. This year’s sculpture featured 13 Nursery Rhymes.

“People think the sculpture will appeal only to children, but I have included some ‘jokes’ that the adults will enjoy. Humpty Dumpty is ready for his fall; there’s a tube of Super Glue beside him. Little Bo Peep has installed an Invisible Fence so she won’t lose her sheep (red flags surround the area with her sheep, and one of the sheep has a collar). Little Miss Muffet is ready for the spider; she has a can of Raid. Jill has decided that Jack will fall down the hill, so she has a medical kit,” she laughed.

This year a work table beside the sculpture, which was displayed in Wilbur’s museum area, featured some of the tools she used to create it, plus the recipe for the candy clay that’s used to create the figures.

“Every year people ask me how I make the sculpture. This year I decided that I would make it a little easier to understand by including some of the tools that I use. People also always ask how long it takes me to make it, but I don’t really know. When I start working, I get in the ‘zone’ and lose track of time. It does take a while, but I love doing it. I love to see kids’ eyes widen in wonder and adults smile and point out things to one another,” Blankenbiller said.

In case you didn’t have an opportunity to see her magical sculpture, it is anticipated to be on display at Wilbur through the holidays. However the location may be closer to the display kitchen.

Freeman said that Blankenbiller’s edible sculpture is always a hit. “Even though this is our twelfth year for the event, there’s always something a little different each year,” he said.

This year that something different included shuttle bus service between two stops and event headquarters at the Train Station in Lititz Springs Park, and a sampling the chili created at Pork & Wally’s that captured the top award in this year’s Fire & Ice competition. Freeman said that he was surprised at how much chocolate is used in the chili recipe.

One of the stops on the Walk was a bit non-traditional. Lancaster Cupcake, a finalist on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”, provided samples of a special chocolate cupcake from their one-of-a-kind mobile cupcake truck in the parking lot of Linden Hall.

Another new feature was one of the top chocolatiers in the country, Chef Frederic Loraschi, creating a chocolate sculpture. This is the fourth year that Loraschi has participated in Chocolate Walk. “We had requests for someone to demonstrate creating a sculpture, and he was the perfect choice. This really is a first for us and it’s an experiment of sorts; the Chocolate Walk is just that – a walk – and people keep moving from place to place,” Freeman said.

As the bell struck 10 a.m., signaling the official start of Chocolate Walk, nearly a dozen people gathered in the Fellowship Hall of Lititz Moravian Church to watch Loraschi at work and to ask questions about the process. As they waited for Loraschi to begin the demonstration, Carol Thomas and her daughter, Susan Stauffer, discussed their Chocolate Walk experience. Although they both live elsewhere in the county, the family once lived in Lititz, and Stauffer grew up in the community.

“We like coming back here to visit, and this is a good excuse,” said Thomas, who was doing the Walk for the third time.

“I’m a chocoholic. How much better can it get than walking around Lititz and sampling chocolate for a good cause!” added Stauffer, who was doing her second Chocolate Walk.

Café Chocolate seems like a perfect fit for Chocolate Walk. “This is the seventh year that I’ve participated in Chocolate Walk. It’s a perfect ‘girls day out’. I’ve been coming to Café Chocolate for a number of years. I love the chocolate strawberry lush; I have one every time I’m in town,” said Beth Mountz, Reading, who was sampling the dark chocolate brownie with three other girl friends. Mountz also gave a “thumbs-up” to the chocolate sandwiches created by Scooter’s Chef Tim Whitmyer that were available for sampling at Cherry Acres.

The pairing of Waltz Vineyards Estate Winery and Miesse Candies was a natural fit. Not only do wine and chocolate pair well together, but Miesse’s has created a chocolate merlot truffle using Waltz’s merlot. For Chocolate Walk, Miesse’s offered a sample of its dark design, which is used at Waltz as a palate cleanser.

Outside of Waltz’s shop, York area residents Stephanie Cox and Bill Johnson said that this was their first Chocolate Walk, but not their first time to Lititz. “We come to Lititz for other events; it’s a neat town. We decided to make Chocolate Walk a little weekend get-away and stayed in a B&B Friday night,” Cox said.

While veteran Walkers could be seen carrying coolers, insulated bags and other containers, a group of six from York County sported specially made T-shirts.

“We do this is every year as a ‘girls day’. It’s so much fun. We have a route that we always take … we save Wilbur for last,” said Chris Horbey of Stewartstown. Her daughter, Amanda, a graphic designer from Sykesville, Md., created the T-shirts this year for the group. “We have so much fun at this event, that this year I wanted to do something special,” she said.

Chocolate Walkers not only enjoyed the yummy samples, but there was also music in several places. A number of people gathered throughout the day to hear local Christian rock band Forgiven perform in Zum Anker Alley.

Amy Rhoads, treasurer and events coordinator for Lititz Historical Foundation, said that Chocolate Walk not only brings people to the facility to sample chocolate, but “it’s also one of the busiest days for sales in our gift shop.” She said that volunteers were available to provide tours of the museum.

For everyone – Walkers, chocolate makers, retailers, volunteers, and most importantly the charities supported by the Kiwanis Club – it was a stellar day. Be sure to check for details of next year’s event.


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