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History

Thanks to our generous Festival venues:

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      • Whittier Center 1987

      • Aspen Grove 1990 – 1993

      • Bullen Center 1994 – 2010

      • Accolade at Hamilton’s 2011-2012

      • Four Seasons’ Event Center 2013-2017

      • Riverwoods Conference Center – Current

 

choc22Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 12.34.01 PMHistory of the Festival

The Chocolate Festival  started in 1987 as the brain child of Mary Leavitt and Mary Piette, members of a local Advisory Board who wanted to help the Cache Valley community by providing  health care and

educational programs through Planned Parenthood. What follows is the history of the festival, as told by Lee Austin to Ron Munger in 1997:

A Tradition Begins…

With so many organizations at work in Cache Valley asking people to donate money to worthy causes, our task on the Logan Planned Parenthood Advisory Board seemed daunting. We wanted to raise money for the clinic, but we also wanted to do something fun that would reflect favorably on Planned Parenthood. Since all of us on the board had full time “day jobs”, we also didn’t want to organize something that would consume huge amounts of time and energy. Our everlasting gratitude goes to Mary Piette, who brought the idea of a chocolate festival to Utah from Hawaii. She said lots of people have a passion for chocolate. Mary explained that regardless of how people felt about family planning, chocolate would bring them to our event. I think there were a few skeptics on the board, myself included.

We kept brainstorming and I’m not sure who gets credit for linking chocolate with Valentines Day or calling it a “Pro-Am” event. Someone came up with a poster image that proved enduring for the Chocolate Festival – the Hershey’s Kiss (at least until 1997 when the committee decided to alter the image for copyright sake and merchandising). The Whittier Community Center was the site of the first few Chocolate festivals from 1987 to 1989. Both the Planned Parenthood staff and members of the advisory board come through with the decorations for the Whittier. Mary’s late husband Larry Piette demonstrated great enthusiasm and skill with a tall and somewhat unstable ladder getting balloons and other festive accessories installed. The event came together with relative ease, but the question remained: would it work? Would there be enough people making and donating chocolate dessert items to feed the crowd? Would there be a crowd? Would we be able to get that food handlers permit? Would the auction be successful? Who would be the auctioneer?

The success of the first year astounded us all. People packed the Whittier, and there was just enough chocolate to keep everyone happy. I didn’t realize chocolate had that much aroma. When we had all the entries set out and cut up for serving, the smell of chocolate in that building was amazing. I think the organizers made just one mistake that evening, and it was quickly corrected. I was asked to be the auctioneer (probably because people assumed my work in public radio somehow qualified me for the job). I was nervous and uncertain about how to run the bidding. I remember getting signals from Allen Stokes to get the prices up higher. I remember Val Grant working the crowd from the sidelines. My greatest contribution to the whole event may have been the realization that Val was the biggest ham in the building and the most likely to succeed as auctioneer. I called him up to the stage, handed him the microphone and the rest is history! Val has been the auctioneer every year since (except one year he was ill and Lee Austin valiantly filled in with the help of Mary Leavitt).

It was and still is the best fund raising event in Cache Valley. The people who make the chocolate cakes, cookies and assorted dessert items do most of the work. We raise thousands of dollars for an important cause, Val Grant has a second career, the community continues to receive high quality, low-cost healthcare and everyone has fun!

Note: Over the many years of the festival the number of entries has ranged from 30 to 75. In addition to the chocolate desserts, several non-dessert items donated by local businesses are now also included in the auction. A Parent/Child category was added in 1996 to foster (in a small way) the commitment to family unity and health. Planned Parenthood is dedicated to helping promote happy and healthy children.

Val Grant “retired” as auctioneer in 2008 and the live auction is now masterfully conducted by Geno Schupp, attired in Val’s lucky tie-dyed t-shirt that he won at Val’s final auction.