Dozens of times Saturday at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Rock Hill, these words were uttered, called out, spoken, whispered, even muttered as the dripping chocolate was wiped from a chin: “The diet starts Monday.”
Saturday was the annual Chocolate Festival at Epiphany, aimed at bringing new faces into the church while raising more than a few bucks to help the community’s poor and needy.
Just about everybody who came ate chocolate.
Or drank chocolate.
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Or in the case of wine, yes wine, with bits of chocolate on the side, sipped the fermented fruit of the vine at the same time.
It was impossible to miss the place. A guy and a kid, both wearing M&M’s costumes, waved at drivers along West Main Street.
“First time ever as an M&M,” Eric Walrath, 10, said.
What kind of M&M was he? The anticipated answers was either peanut or plain.
“Blue,” Eric responded. “Everybody likes the blue ones.”
Inside the church the crowd chewed and nibbled and sampled, gobbled and tasted and dunked.
Isaac Neely, 3, had as much chocolate on his face as in his mouth. His mother and grandmother wondered how to get him clean. The chocolate crept toward his hair. Isaac did not care. He ate more skewers of fruit dipped into the chocolate fountain.
“Mmmm,” Isaac said.
The pastor at Epiphany, Jeff Lingle, a sharp guy with a good sense of humor, came up with the idea of the chocolate festival as a way to attract people to the church six years ago. The congregation has embraced it and seen it grow into a regional event. People Saturday came for the annual event at the “Chocolate Church of Rock Hill” from as far as Charlotte and Columbia to sample the wares.
This was not a candy bar sale. There were chocolate hearts and chocolate cookies and chocolate cakes and chocolate pies. Chocolate covered fruit and chocolate filled crepes and cupcakes for kids to make. Chocolate bacon and eggs and chocolate ice cream. Except for a couple of vendors of fine chocolates who sold their goods, and the crepes made by a chef brought in to wow everybody, everything was homemade by the people of the church.
Karen Kocher ate a chocolate crepe and had cake for dessert and ice cream for dessert after dessert and looked like a little kid with a little smear at the corner of her mouth. Chocolate and a good cause – a good combination, she said. Her mouth was full of chocolate.
Susanne Roulette needed two days to make some kind of Sicilian cheesecake as thick as a radial tire that had enough espresso and chocolate and cream cheese and sugar to cause teeth to ache without even a second bite.
If there were diabetics in the house, they must have drank a bottle of water and sulked.
“The whole idea is to show that church can be fun, and the chocolate church and chocolate festival really is unique,” said Dee Jewell, one of the longtime organizers and volunteers.
Unique is the word for what Dee’s husband, Jim, is when he cooks with chocolate. Jim Jewell makes chocolate chili. The chocolate chili was even spooned over hot dogs.
“You don’t see that every day,” cracked Jim.
People snapped up $3 bowls of chocolate chili as fast as the ladies could ladle them out.
From stocked tables throughout the church, everything was snapped up by the young and the old, the skinny and the not so skinny. By the afternoon hundreds of new people had seen the fun and the spirit that this Lutheran church offers. Lingle, the pastor who had worked nonstop, stopped for a minute to have some coffee.
It was chocolate, too.
He drank every drop.