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Loco for Cocoa

When it comes to chocolate, not many have taken the kind of plunge Barbara Disborough has.

Ross & Marc Boissoneau - April 21st, 2014  

Besides naming herself and her company “The Chocolate Lady,” she’s written a book and organizes an annual festival … both celebrating chocolate.

On April 27, Disborough’s fourth annual Traverse City Chocolate Festival will lure hundreds of like-minded cocoa heads to the City Opera House.

“We’ll fill the Opera House with chocolate,” said Disborough. “As soon as we open the front door, you can smell the chocolate down the street.”

This isn’t the first time Traverse City has celebrated chocolate. Several years ago, the Opera House hosted a similar chocolate festival. But after a couple of go-rounds it ceased operation.

Around 2008, a group of chocolatiers decided to revive the concept. Since Disborough had just published “The Guide to Chocolate in the Grand Traverse Region,” the group asked her to be part of the festival.

The first show was successful, more so than Disborough anticipated.

“People came up to me and asked, ‘When is the next chocolate festival?’” she said. “I said, ‘It’s not up to me.’ “Then I thought, why not me?” The festival attracts chocolatiers from across the region and the state.

“It’s getting more well-known across the state,” Disborough said. “We started with [chocolates from] this region, but have a number from Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, etc.”

Vendors exhibiting include Moomers Ice Cream, Kilwin’s Traverse City, Grocer’s Daughter Chocolates, Pleasanton Bakery and Café, Confections by Kim, Just Good Chocolate of Lake Leelanau, Market Bistro from Interlochen, Sweet Petites of Grand Traverse, Fudge By Design from Kingsley, Noteware Candy Company of Manistee, Patricia’s Chocolate, Chocolates by Grimaldi, and Davis Chocolate of Mishawaka, Ind.

Not all the exhibitors will be showcasing edible items. Darling Deities creates handmade polymer jewelry with a chocolate theme, while Horizon Books will display books about chocolate. Great Lakes Bath & Body will showcase cocoa body butter.

But for the rest, it’s about the delectable confections: Truffles, caramels, seafoam, ice cream, and various bakery products.

The Chocolate Festival is not only an opportunity for chocophiles to gather and sample. It is also a fundraiser for the Northwest Food Coalition. The coalition is a cooperative effort of some 60 pantries, churches, and kitchens sharing a vision of healthy food on every table in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau Counties.

In addition to the confections on hand, there will be special chocolate sculptures on display, which will be part of the silent auction. Father-daughter duo Kat Eldred and Tim Burke will provide music for the event, which will also include lectures, discussions and demonstrations.

The Traverse City Chocolate Festival is from 1pm-3pm on Sun., April 27. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under; group discounts are available. Contact the City Opera House at (231) 942-8082, visit, or

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