This past weekend, the city celebrated “Salem So Sweet!” Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival. I never know which part of that title is actually capitalized, and which part are in inverted commas, and whether or not it’s Salem’s or Salem. It seems to change – even on the same page. And the title of the festival makes no sense grammatically, sounding like Stephen King’s Boogeyman and Gollum’s bastard lovechild trying to write its first Valentine’s Day card. Salem needs a proofreader…badly.
As they were every year, the ice sculptures were the focus of the festival, and they were different every year. There didn’t seem to be a theme (I thought there had been in previous years). Not attractively presented, they were still nice sights to encounter while strolling around town.
The kick-off was the chocolate and wine tasting at Hamilton Hall, but at $30 a ticket, it’s not for everyone, but it sold out fast. I do get the feeling that it’s the same group of people going to these things (the historic house/garden tours; the Dickensian Christmas ball etc) and were I to buy a ticket, I’d look very much out of place.
The festival’s brochure stated there was a window-dressing contest, but save for a few balloons and pink stuffed animals here and there, I didn’t see much in the way of competing. Rumour has it there was a raffle, and Milk and Honey ran a chocolate-themed baking contest on Saturday.
Downtown wasn’t terribly crowded due to the weather (bitterly cold and very, very blustery), even for February’s standards. I’d been told by a shop owner that the ice sculptures cost upwards of $500, so it’s a shame there’s never been much of a turnout, or much in the way of promotion, given the effort that was put into the sculptures.
As an amateur party-wrangler since the age of 9, I saw so many missed opportunities. Ideal additions could have been chocolate-making workshops (free or paid); chocolate liqueur-tastings; chocolate-themed menus; markets (like the Biz Baz) – indoor or out with hot chocolate sellers; or maybe inviting local dairies or chocolatiers to actually visit and do demonstrations. Maria’s Sweet Somethings did go all out with a small chocolate demonstration, some sipping chocolate samplings and a huge chocolate fountain, but the enthusiasm for the festival elsewhere was sadly…lacklustre.
The romantic aspect could have been celebrated by a special movie offering at the cinema and/or reviving the Movie on the Common series; an event at the PEM; a floral/gifts market; jewellery-making workshops/demonstrations; art displays – everything the city and local businesses put their imagination to when it comes to Hallowe’en, but to get that festival atmosphere back for the singles and families who actually live in Salem or visit during the off-season. People will get out of their homes, tourists and residents alike, if you give them something to do.
Isn’t that what the festival was supposed to be about?