Dietitians may say chocolate lacks nutritional value, but they won’t convince the people who run the Tubman African American Museum.
Since 2004, the museum has used its Death by Chocolate fundraiser to nourish its annual Pan African Festival, which appears to be thriving.
Last year, the festival, held in late April, drew more than 15,000 people to Central City Park, Tubman Executive Director Andy Ambrose said. This year the festival is moving to Tattnall Square Park, thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation and some cooperation with the College Hill Alliance.
And then there’s the financial support from Death by Chocolate, which seems to have a life of its own.
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Organizers said more than 500 people came to the Macon City Auditorium Sunday night to enjoy dinner, listen to live music, bid on auction items and pick from dozens of chocolate desserts spread out on a long table. These included a horse head made of chocolate, donated by the Tic Toc Room, and a heart-shaped candy box made of chocolate cake, donated by Wal-Mart.
Six years ago, the Valentine’s Day fundraiser started out at the Tubman, then moved to larger and larger venues: the Cox Capitol Theatre, the Armory Ballroom and now the City Auditorium.
“Thank God for Wal-Mart,” said event chairperson Pat Person. The retailer’s sponsorship is the main reason Death by Chocolate has experienced such growth, she said.
Sunday, many attendees showed their Valentine’s Day spirit by dressing in red.
Linda Thomas said she and her husband, Preston, were attending for the second year.
“It’s getting to be a Valentine’s Day tradition for us,” Thomas said.
Auction items included autographed, framed poems by Maya Angelou and a 90-year anniversary set of United Artists DVDs, given to a Maconite by Oprah Winfrey in 2007 when she taped her “favorite things” show here.
Tickets to the event cost $25. Anita Ponder, the Tubman’s director of education and outreach, said Death by Chocolate raised about $9,000 last year.
“Most of the events we have for our weekend in the park are free, and this is how we fund it,” she said.
Richard Keil, the former Catholic priest who founded the Tubman in 1981, attended Sunday’s event.
“It’s wonderful to see this tonight,” Keil said. “I’m so proud of all the staff and the board of directors and everybody who came. It shows how many people really want to participate in something like this.”