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The Amazing Chocolate Tree

23 November 2005

An imaginative chocolate exhibit now open at the Franklin Park Conservatory shows visitors the process of chocolate-making - from the roots of the tree to the candy factory.

A 20-foot flower dome, a 20-foot cacao pod, a rain forest with a cacao tree and a life-size chocolate factory make The Amazing Chocolate Tree one of the most dynamic and expansive exhibitions to arrive at the conservatory, according to executive director Paul Redman.

"This is likely the first time anything like this has been done in the world of botanical gardens," Redman said. "This exhibition weaves an interactive and playful element throughout the entire conservatory. We are thrilled that it will debut in Columbus and look forward to exceptional events that will coincide with the exhibition."

This imaginative exhibition takes you inside the exciting world of chocolate making - from the roots of the tree to the candy factory. Take an interactive journey through a 20-foot flower dome, a 20-foot cacao pod, and a rainforest with cacao trees that bring life to the history, process, and use of chocolate around the world. The exhibition ends at a life-size chocolate factory that involves you in the entire process of chocolate production. This exciting, enlightening exhibition evokes a sense of wonder for all ages.

Eleven stations are set up throughout the conservatory, which is the first stop on a nationwide tour. The interactive displays weave in nature and culture by including chocolate artifacts, an actual rain forest with cacao trees and a fragrant chocolate garden.

In addition, a life-size chocolate factory has been designed so visitors can take part in the chocolate-making process.

Chocolate-themed activities and programs will include the following:

  • Demonstrations with hand-dipped chocolate, wine-filled candies, corporate gifts, gift baskets, and Valentine's Day gifts.
  • Family weekend and holiday-break activities, including cooking with chocolate and learning about rain forest animals from the Columbus Zoo.
  • Cocoa therapy by Origins, including therapy products.
  • An educator workshop that correlates the exhibition to social studies academic content standards.
  • Numerous lectures, with topics including the true history of chocolate and traditional cultivation of cacao by the Bribri Indians of Costa Rica.
  • A reading by "Candyfreak" author Steve Almond.

"The response to develop programs with such a diverse group of local universities, organizations and experts was tremendous," Redman said.

As the first stop on a countrywide tour, The Amazing Chocolate Tree was jointly developed among six of the country's major botanical gardens as the first of a series of extraordinary travelling exhibitions. The exhibition will then travel to the five other botanical gardens - Atlanta Botanical Garden, Dallas Arboretum, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and Phipps Conservatory.

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