Annual A Taste of Chocolate Friday benefits reading, youth leadership programs

lighthearted, wise humorist once said, “Forget love. I’d rather fall in chocolate.”

This weekend, folks can get a taste of at least one of those as Columbus Service League’s 25th annual A Taste of Chocolate unfolds from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday lining the middle of Columbus’ FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St.

Even for the hardened hearts who might consider next week’s Valentine’s Day as no big deal, the sweet, yearly fundraiser often draws more than 2,000 people and generates between $9,000 and $10,000 for two local programs: Reading Is Fundamental, encouraging youngsters to find joy in books; and Youth Leadership Bartholomew County, teaching teens skills from résumé writing to job interviewing.

Organizers also are donating partial proceeds to Columbus’ Turning Point Domestic Violence Services.

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Sure, the gathering, complete with entertainment, normally offers its share of cookies, cakes, pies, syrups and enough dark, creamy goodness seemingly to float people from here to Hershey, Pennsylvania.

But it also can be a picture of practicality, with items such as chocolate chili. This year, organizers even are stretching beyond previous boundaries to include more than food among about 40 vendors, about 12 more than last year.

Lindsey Babinec, owner of Blondie’s Tan & Spa in Columbus, will sell a chocolate-scented skin scrub, along with bagged chocolate treats, for attendees. As one who’s never attended the event, she’s excited to be a part.

“Who doesn’t love chocolate?” Babinec asked.

Dawn Andrews, co-coordinator of the event with Varsi Weeter, figures the tweaked approach can build from year to year.

“The new set-up will take a while for businesses to latch on, but it’s a win-win for everyone,” Andrews said.

Andrews mentioned that volunteers ideally would like to raise $20,000 — nearly double the maximum generated in any of the past few years, according to Columbus Service League figures.

“That would be huge,” Andrews said. “I think that, in time, we could do it.”

Andrews herself will have an event booth highlighting her garb2art cosmetics sold with recycled containers and packaging. She will include a chocolate spray, and a little girl-targeted chocolate lip balm with a light-up lid.

Also on tap will be a full lineup of entertainment, including returning groups such as Columbus North High School’s 25th Street Jazz ensemble and newcomers such as the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

Beth Barnes, who organized the musical lineup, aimed for variety.

“My goal was to try to touch on all musical styles possible,” Barnes said.

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What: Columbus Service League’s 25th Annual A Taste of Chocolate fundraiser, featuring a wide range of chocolate treats and foods, including cakes, pies, cookies and even chocolate-oriented toiletries and cosmetics.

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Where: FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St. in Columbus.

Tickets: $2.50 in advance at FairOaks Mall, Blondie’s Tan & Spa, Gramz Bakery, All Natural Assets, or by calling 812-343-3569. $3 at the event.

Information: 812-343-3569 or Columbus Service League’s Facebook page.

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In front of Carson’s:

5 to 5:30 p.m. — Columbus North High School Jazz Band under the direction of Bill Stultz.

5:30 to 6 p.m. — Northside Middle School Choir under the direction of Sarah Finegan.

6 to 6:30 p.m. — Southside Elementary School Choir under the direction of Becky Brown.

6:30 to 7 p.m. — Central Middle School Jazz Band under the direction of David Rodgers.

7 to 7:30 p.m. — Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Youth Orchestra with Vanessa Edwards.

7:30 to 8 p.m. — Lauren Knorr and Grace Stewart.

At Dancin’ DJs:

4:30 to 5:15 p.m. — Harpist Claudia Slabaugh.

5:15 to 6 p.m. — Sonya’s Dance Zone.

6 to 6:30 p.m. — Lauren Knorr and Grace Stewart.

6:30 to end — Harpist Slabaugh.