A third annual festival celebrating the creativity of Okotoks businesses is set to heat up next week.
The Okotoks Hot Chocolate Festival returns for its third iteration from Feb. 10-20 with 15 cafes, restaurants, shops and home businesses offering up their culinary concoctions for those wanting a sweet way to indulge while supporting local.
"Right now we're sitting at (15) businesses that are participating," said event organizer Katie Fournell from K-T Events. "Basically, people can come and try hot chocolates all over town."
Due to COVID-19 safety measures in place the event has gone virtual with an online map showcasing the different participating businesses and what they're offering rather than a physical map that was offered in year's past.
Some businesses are offering delivery of goods or curb-side pick-up as well. Dine-in restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on Feb. 8 throughout the province.
"I have a website that I've built and it's an interactive map which is really cool because you can rate each hot chocolate as you try it, and as you try each hot chocolate the little cups on the map change colour," Fournell said. "On the business side, some of the hot chocolates will probably be to go. We have a lot of locations participating for the first time that are not necessarily food vendors or are home kitchen vendors that do delivery."
Covet Cookies, which is offering up a delectable hot chocolate cookie with $1 from each cookie box going towards the Okotoks Food Bank, is offering delivery on both Fridays of the festival. Sugar Illusions is offering pick-up services for its Belgian Hot Chocolate bombs.
"Some other non-cafes where you wouldn't expect to get hot chocolate, those hot chocolate bombs that were so popular at Christmas are making a bit of a comeback and there's a few buy and take home and make hot chocolates as well," she said.
This year's participating businesses are Covet Cookies, Sugar Illusions, Hub Town Brewing Co., The British Chippy Okotoks Ltd., Home Ground Coffee, La Diperie, 94 Take the Cake, Fantasy By Numbers, Loop Kids, Mamie's Treats, Modern Catering and Boutique Cafe, Tribal Connection Market, All Through the House, Sweetgrass Deli and Brown Sugar Bake Shop.
Many of the businesses are donating some of the proceeds from sales from hot chocolates to local non-profits organizations.
Fournell launched the festival in 2019 with the goal of giving local businesses a boost in the middle of winter while also tying into the Valentine's Day experience inexorably linked to chocolate.
"I like to try and do events that involve local businesses in Okotoks, I'm pretty good friends with a lot of the business owners," Fournell added. "Because of that I like to try and include them when I have community events and this is a great way to have a boost to local businesses in the middle of February, when it's kind of cold and it's something that we all want as we go into a super-cold February this year.
"It's just a way to inspire creativity in the businesses and hopefully give people an opportunity to try a location that they've never been to before."
Registration for the event allows festival participants to rate their favourites. Each rating enters registrants for a $25 gift card for the winning business.
Fournell is encouraging festival goers to Instagram their content as well as share it on TikTok using #Okotokshotchocolate.
For more information go to hotchoco.ktevents.ca.