Knoxville, Tennessee, is a gem of a destination tucked away in the hills north of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The city of over 185,000 people is vibrant and ideal for family getaways, couple’s retreats, and more. The last decade brought a cultural and economic resurgence to the city and visitors will find a multitude of new restaurants, shops, events, and attractions.
Chocolatefest Knoxville is the city's ultimate celebration of chocolate. The event is held at the Knoxville Convention Center, and features the best chocolate producers from Eastern Tennessee. Patrons will find a chocolate wonderland with vendors, music, a silent auction, and interactive activities. This year's event will feature the ChocolART Competition, where contestants will exhibit art creations made from chocolate. Event organizers have also teamed with the Ronald McDonald House of Knoxville, helping to provide a home-away-from-home for families with sick children. We got the chance to interview Jennifer Johnsey, Event Manager for Chocolatefest Knoxville, to talk about this great event.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
JJ: Chocolatefest ran for 20 years in Knoxville as a benefit for the National Kidney Foundation's local chapter. The event went away for five years when the chapter was dissolved, but my team picked it up and brought it back. One of the board members from the former Chocolatefest spoke with me about bringing it back, and I jumped at the chance to do it! We are going into our 4th year calling it Chocolatefest Knoxville.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
JJ: It didn't take long to revive Chocolatefest after its five-year hiatus. We started off with around 1,000 attendees our first year, 2,000 our second, and around 3,000 at the 2016 event. We anticipate around 4,000 attendees at the 2017 event.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
JJ: We offer something for everyone. We have a children's area with local children's museums, characters, and crafts. We have shopping vendors with great ideas for Valentine's Day. We have live entertainment all day that is family friendly, and we‘ve added a Cake and Chocolate design competition this year.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
JJ: It's not just about chocolate. It's also about charity. A portion of our proceeds go to Knoxville's Ronald McDonald House, which offers a home-away-from-home for families with sick children who are being treated at area hospitals. There is also a silent auction with 100% of the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House. Chocolatefest is a wonderful opportunity for local bakers and chocolatiers to show people what they can do!
RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.
JJ: You can choose to purchase a $5 General Admission ticket or a $20 Tasting Pass. The General Admission ticket grants you admission to the festival so that you can walk around, shop, and enjoy live entertainment. You can also purchase baked goods and chocolate from our chocolate vendors. With a $20 Tasting Pass, you gain admission to the tasting area, where you can visit the chocolate vendors and sample signature chocolate dishes. You'll receive a complimentary box upon entering the tasting area where you can collect samples or save them for later. When you have your fill of chocolate, you can sit down near the entertainment stage and enjoy the live music. Then you can browse the Main Street Shopping vendor booths for some unique shopping opportunities. Make sure you check out the Cake Design Competition and the ChocolART displays to vote for your favorite! Our Silent Auction items are always a huge hit! You get something cool, and you help our charity! If you have children with you, make sure you take them to the children's area to meet their favorite superhero or Cat in the Hat and make a craft to take home. Stop by the photo booth too and get a fun picture made!
RAL: What will patrons find for dining options?
JJ: Chocolate and sweets are the main meal at Chocolatefest. If you find yourself in need of salty foods, you can stop by the concession stand at the Knoxville Convention Center.
RAL: What is the environment like?
JJ: Chocolatefest is a lot of fun. It attracts a large crowd, so we have moved it to the Knoxville Convention Center for the 2017 event to accommodate the large crowd with 49,000 square feet!
RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?
JJ: This is the first year that Chocolatefest Knoxville will be in the Historic Downtown area at the Knoxville Convention Center. There are a wide variety of hotels conveniently located near the convention center.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
JJ: Chocolatefest is a truly sweet event! It's fun trying different styles and flavors of chocolate. Downtown Knoxville is our "scruffy little city" and has so much to offer in the way of fun including museums, historical locations, food tours, restaurants, shops, outdoor activities and more. It's affordable, unique and fun! I would encourage anyone to come and stay the weekend in Knoxville to experience our city and Chocolatefest!
For more information about Chocolatefest Knoxville, please visit their website.