Greenville, Maine WEATHER
Children's Table at the 2009 Chocolate Festival in Greenville
Children’s Table at the 2009 Chocolate Festival held at the Masonic Temple in Greenville. Becky Morse and her young helper are ready to hand out Chocolate Treats.

by Emily Patrick

The history of chocolate is as rich and enchanting as the treat itself. The use of cacao trees, which bear the cacao fruit, can be traced back as far as 1500 B.C. to the Olmecs of southern Mexico, the native land of the “chocolate bean.” The tradition of ingesting the cacao fruit was passed from the Olmecs to the Mayans and Aztecs and, eventually, to Spain, though it’s debated whether Columbus, Cortes or someone else entirely first brought the delicacy to Europe. 

A Spanish ship brought chocolate to America through Florida in 1641. The first American chocolate house opened in Boston in 1682. Another landmark event in the history of chocolate, the formal celebration of the sweet treat in Greenville, Maine began 20 years ago this February with the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual Chocolate Festival.

The wildly popular event started in 2004 and was the brainchild of the chamber’s former Executive Director, Bob Hamer, and his wife, Susan. Bob and Susan had extensive fundraising experience when they moved to Greenville in 2000 from Georgia, where they ran a nonprofit shelter for abused and neglected children. Though they had experience raising money down south, they were new to Greenville and found it to be a totally different beast.

Looking for a new way to raise money for the Chamber that would work in our community, they were inspired by a chocolate festival their daughter planned while working for a nonprofit in Philadelphia. Why couldn’t it work in Greenville? After all, chocolate is a universal delight.

At first, Susan was nervous asking for donations as she was new to the area. Thankfully, the first person Susan asked about baking for the event was Betty Crossman, whom she worked with at CA Dean hospital at the time. Betty, of course, gave her an enthusiastic, “Sure!” and that gave Susan the confidence to ask others to donate their time and baking skills to the event. 

Susan soon formed a Chocolate Festival Committee and the first member was none other than Greenville’s own Diane Bartley. The Bartley’s have been integral to the event since its beginning and Tony Bartley’s chocolate fountain has been a hit year after year. I was in Middle School when I attended the first Chocolate Festival and my memory is fuzzy (I blame the sugar buzz, not my age) but I do remember that fountain. As a kid, it looked like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and just like the popular flick, brings just as much delight to kids and adults today as it did then. To celebrate this year’s 20th anniversary, the Bartley’s have bought and donated a brand-new fountain.

It’s not only the Bartley family that’s been involved with the festival over the years; there are too many individuals who contribute to the event’s success to name them all. In fact, the generosity of individuals in our small community and their ability to come together to make something happen is one of the “sweetest” themes I’ve seen during my time working for this newspaper and it emerges time and time again. From the very first year, people were donating their time, energy, money, goods and culinary skills to make the event happen and that’s still true today. After the first festival two decades ago, Susan says it was “something the community fell in love with.” 

Some things have changed over the festival’s 20 years. Over time, the event’s success caused some growing pains and it was moved from the Masonic Temple in Greenville to the school cafeteria. Covid threw a wrench in things and the festival was a “drive-through” event for several years. 10 years ago, Susan turned the reigns over to a new generation of chocolate lovers, some of whom had been involved since the festival’s inception. In recent years, entertainment has been added to the list of delights and this year’s event will feature live music by Lily Harding from 12-2 pm. 

 Still, many things have stayed the same. It remains very much a community event and team effort. It offers everyone from kids to retirees something to do in the bleak winter months and remains something to look forward to for those who don’t necessarily love winter sports. Just as eggs are a binding agent for baked goods, chocolate binds people and communities. 

As of the writing of this article, 5100 pieces of chocolate have been donated for the event on Sunday, February 18th. The event will be held from 12-3 pm in the Greenville Consolidated School cafeteria. Those interested in learning more, buying tickets or even donating can visit 

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