By Debra Downey • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
A nine year-old boy’s “really cool” idea has become the hot spot for families who want to spend some quality time together.
Braden Marshall and dad Glenn were kicking back on the sofa one nippy January day in 2012 when the pair’s conversation shifted to the work of the Hamilton Conservation Foundation.
“I thought it would be good to raise money so they can preserve land and help buy more land, and raise awareness,” said Braden.
The Marshalls’ home at the time backed onto the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and Braden enjoyed hiking the trails with mom, dad and the family’s black lab, Fergus.
The first fundraising idea Braden posed to his father that lazy day was a lemonade stand. But when dad — president of Greening MarketingInc. — pointed out it was a bit chilly for lemonade, the Hillfield Strathallan student suggested hot chocolate.
For the precocious youngster with “a big sweet tooth” that afternoon father-son chat was the seed that sprouted Hamilton’s first Hot Chocolate Festival.
Braden said the first task in organizing the inaugural festival last year was coming up with a suitable logo and making posters to alert others of his enterprise. Admittedly, Braden got a little help from his dad as he arranged entertainment, found a sponsor in Marz Homes and lined up hot chocolate supplier Camino.
Braden said he expected a couple of hundred people to turn out for his event, but when his web site got close to 1,000 hits in its first week, he knew there was more interest than anticipated.
“I was a bit stunned,” said Braden, as a few hundred participants ballooned to more than 2,500. “It was really cool, to start the day watching TV, and then to see this idea come together.”
Last year’s Hot Chocolate Festival featured entertainer John Ellison, who penned the 1967 classic song Some Kind of Wonderful, a story tellers’ corner with children’s authors, a bird-feeder workshop, sweet treats, the food truck Gorilla Cheese, and, of course, plenty of tasty hot chocolate. Mild weather hampered Braden’s plans for mapped tours of the Dundas Valley trails, but other than that, he said everyone seemed to have a grand time enjoying the great outdoors, socializing, listening to music and sipping hot chocolate.
With Christmas and new year celebrations now behind him, Braden is setting his sights on the second Hot Chocolate Festival. The date and time will remain the same — Family Day, Monday, Feb. 18 at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area Trail Centre — but Braden has already decided to expand the hours, increase the number of performers and have a real stage and sound system.
The youngster, who plans to one day become a veterinarian for the World Wildlife Fund, hopes readers, young and young-at-heart, will plan to join the fun. For all the latest developments on the 2013 event, keep an eye on the web site.