Aiken is sweet on its Chocolate Festival


AIKEN – Scientists now tell us, assuming the recent study isn’t superceded next week, that chocolate is good for us. Eating it increases endorphins and makes one healthy and happy. If so, there must have been hordes of delirious people running around Aiken Oct. 4.

The source for all that happy health was the St. Mary Help of Christian 14th annual Chocolate Festival. The carnival is a joint effort of school and parish and is, according to parish secretary Laura Jarvi, the biggest fund-raiser of the year.

The 2002 version was chock full of people and children playing games, riding ponies and a camel, singing along with life-size puppets, buying books, bidding on gifts, and munching chocolate under bright, sunny skies as they listened to bands play and watched ping pong contests. There were foods of all types available, from hot dogs to Korean grilled beef, to complement a ton of endorphin producers such as: chocolate muffins, chocolate brownies, chocolate cakes, chocolate lollypops, chocolate pies, chocolate candy and fudge.

“This is really fun and all systematically organized,” said associate pastor Father Gade Show Reddy. “The best part of it is the volunteers, people working hard to make money for the school.”

The Chocolate Festival has grown every year since its inception in 1988, according to St. Mary’s PTO president Alicia Visotski. It has become a part of the lore of downtown Aiken and draws thousands of visitors as it spans neighborhood playgrounds, buildings and grassy lots.

“We use the proceeds to buy microscopes and update computers and provide the school with the latest technology,” Visotski said.

School principal Keith Darr said that a spin-off of the communal effort to pull of the event is a sense of “good spirit” that grows from the sacrifices required of many people, especially the two parents who head up the whole thing.

“Bette Ross and Laurie Ulmer are the chairmen for the second year. They begin working a year ahead to get it all together,” Darr said. “The parish and school really look forward to the festival and this kind of crowd having fun will go a long way toward making everyone feel good about our (faith) community.”

The educator didn’t say it, but the chocolate probably helps, too.