St. Mary's School held its sweetest fundraiser Saturday, the school's 24th annual Chocolate Festival.

Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the school grounds, the festival featured a trash and treasure and used book sale, an international cafe, bake sale and frozen casserole sale, carnival rides, games and inflatables, and live entertainment.

The centerpiece of it all was the chocolate carousel, which offered a variety of chocolate-flavored desserts sold by the slice or piece. The bake sale offered either small portions or entire cakes, pies and desserts. Chocolate candy was given out as prizes for the assorted games.

“It's gone great. What's impressive to me is that today, more than any other year I think, the festival is multigenerational. We've had everyone from infant to 80 come through today,” said St. Mary's principal Peggy Wertz. “This year, we set up an alumni hospitality room for the first time, so we've had those people come through for the festival today, as well.”

The Chocolate Festival was also home to an assortment of other worthy causes, such as a blood drive by Shepeard Community Blood Center and an animal adoption meet-and-greet with Friends of the Animal Shelter and some of the shelter's dogs in need of homes. Proceeds from the festival's ticket, food and used item sales go into the school's financial aid fund.

The fund also benefited from sales of the festival's T-shirts: this year's design, which featured a takeoff on the Hunger Games' series “Mockingjay” logo, their “Chocingjay,” at full price and shirts from previous years' sales for $5. A plant sale also brought money into the school's coffers.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for kids and for their parents to get out in the fresh air,” said festival attendee Maureen Simpson. “I think the chocolate aspect appeals more to the parents than the children, frankly.”

Suzanne Stone is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and studied communications at Augusta State University. She is a native of Augusta. Contact Suzanne Stone at, or follow on Twitter at #SuzanneRStone and on Facebook at Suzanne Stone is