Sweets, specials at Marion's annual Chocolate Walk

Friday event to showcase local businesses

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MARION­ — Adults in Marion can experience their own version of trick-or-treating this Friday during the annual Marion Chocolate Walk. But the event focuses less on tricks and more on supporting local businesses.

The 13th annual event begins at 8 p.m. in Uptown Marion, the main street district. The event is free, and 25 Marion businesses will be open until 10:30 p.m.

Participating businesses include local bars, restaurants, jewelry shops, salons and other retailers.

Attendees can walk into any of the participating businesses to receive a small chocolate sweet provided by the owners, but the real treat is seeing what sales or specials the businesses offer, said Jill Ackerman, Marion Chamber of Commerce president.

Ackerman said the event began to attract customers to local businesses.

“They were looking for a way to get people into stores,” Ackerman said. “I think it’s safe to say it stuck. It’s a way for us to showcase that district.

“For small businesses, it’s really a tough go. They’ve always had to compare with mass retailers, but e-commerce adds another level of difficulty.”

Local musicians will be set up throughout the route, and Chocolate Walk attendees often stay until the end of the event listening to the music and spending money at local restaurants — even those that aren’t participating in the event.

“It’s kind of turned into an adult playground,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said the event is a kickoff to Christmas shopping, and businesses often sell a lot of merchandise during that time.

Gae Sharp-Richardson, owner of the Chocolate Shop, 1244 Seventh Ave., said she often sells a week’s worth of product during the event.

Sharp-Richardson said she is going to provide “random acts of chocolate” for customers when they buy something on Friday, meaning they may receive a free caramel apple or a discounted price on their purchase. She also will choose one person to act out the scene from the “I Love Lucy” episode when Lucy stuffs chocolates into her mouth while working on an assembly line at a chocolate factory.

The winner can choose a day when the Chocolate Shop is making sweets to come in to eat as much chocolate as they want.

If you go

— When: Friday, 8 to 10:30 p.m.

— Where: Uptown Marion

— Why: Chocolate Walk, free

— For more information: http://web.marioncc.org/events/Chocolate-Walk-2214/details

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