Chocolate mingles with fine art at Carefree festival

Art appreciators strolled through Carefree Desert Gardens in downtown Carefree this past weekend, treating themselves to delightful works of art and decadent treats at the town’s first Culinary Festival of Chocolates, Confections & Fine Art.

The booths' vendors and artisans normally travel the country to present an impressive array of creations and goods. The craftsmanship of the pieces was remarkable and showed that creative vision went into each piece.

One of the most astonishing works of art was found at a furniture booth. Tables, mirrors and benches for sale were made out of wood from juniper trees.

While the chunky texture was aesthetically appealing, the elaborate details took each item up a notch, with pieces of beautiful turquoise and copper were embedded into the juniper wood.

The booth with the intricate furniture was popular, although one thing held potential consumers back: the prices.  The steep minimum price of $4,000 was enough to generate more admirers than buyers.

Another popular stop was Su’s Pressed Flower Art. People perused the floral artwork hanging on the walls of the booth. Some of the featured flowers included Mexican Bird of Paradises, radiant red and yellow flowers commonly found around the Valley. Michelle Barnhart, owner of Su’s Pressed Flower Art, explained the time-consuming process to interested customers.

The fresh flowers are pressed and are laid out to dry for six to eight weeks. Once the flowers are dry, the flowers with the most vibrant colors are placed in between two pieces of glass. The finished pieces are then put into handmade frames.

The refreshing breeze carried along scents of mouthwatering chocolate sweets, reminding guests that fine art was not the only attraction at the festival. Several Arizonan entrepreneurs satisfied chocolate cravings.

Confectioners competed with other nearby booths to attract guests with their sweet delicacies. One baker boasted that her whoopee pies were made from chocolate from Mexico.

Other booths dished out brownies, chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas, cheesecake drenched in chocolate and dark chocolate truffles filled with raspberry fillings. The oddball of the group was bacon dipped in chocolate from a Sedona chef.

Even though Carefree is a considerable distance from Tempe, the Carefree Culinary Festival of Chocolates, Confections & Fine Art proved to be worth the drive. After all, who can deny treating their taste buds to scrumptious chocolates while feasting their eyes on exquisite works of art?


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