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Chocoholics Celebrate At Festival
First-time Oakdale Chocolate Festival attendee Leslie Cox thoroughly enjoyed her chocolate dipped strawberries, eating her way through the skewer. At left, boyfriend Anthony Hiatt looks through the special festival guide, checking the map to see where to visit next. Marg Jackson/The Leader


Great weather and high attendance combined to make this year’s Oakdale Chocolate Festival a triumph on Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17.

With other festivals and events on the weekend, the Chocolate Festival, which dates back to when Hershey Chocolate was located in the city, attracted thousands to come out for the vendors, arts and crafts, the traditional Chocolate Avenue, food, fun runs, kids activities, entertainment and more.

“We were debating between the Strawberry Festival in Galt, the car show in Jackson, or the Chocolate Festival,” said Sarah Sanchez of Stockton. “We pass by Oakdale all the time on our way to Yosemite, so I chose we come here.”

After Hershey left the city in 2008, the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce continued to sponsor the festival and were pleased when Sconza – which moved in to the former Hershey Plant – joined in to lend support and provide a local annual ‘sweet’ presence.

Oakdale Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola said the over 70,000 attendees wasn’t a record but was second best in the event’s 23-year history.

“The 23rd Oakdale Chocolate Festival had awesome weather and great local support,” said Guardiola. “There were 53 local Stanislaus businesses that participated this year as vendors and local non-profits that will benefit from volunteer efforts at the event. Thank you to all the 300-plus volunteers it took to make this event successful.”

Whether the kids wanted to spend a little time on the twisting, flipping, spinning rides or you wanted to try a new concoction – frozen cotton candy – there was plenty to do and see, as always.

First time attendees Leslie Cox of Stockton and boyfriend Anthony Hiatt were enjoying taking it all in and said they would come back.

“A lot of the Bay Area festivals have dwindled,” Hiatt said. “We’ll come here.”

Cox – eating her way through a skewer of chocolate-covered strawberries – could only nod her agreement.

The owners of It’s So Fluffy frozen cotton candy, Dustin Stafford and Jennifer Chivers of Antioch, were also pleased and plan to return in 2016.

“This is our first event,” Chivers said, with the business just getting started.

The frozen confection is a type of Taiwanese dessert and they said the fruit flavors were selling well this weekend. They also will be at the Castroville Artichoke Festival at the end of the month.

Plenty of local groups had booths and a number of the merchants also indicated they are part of the Wednesday night Farmers Markets in Oakdale as well.


Leader Editor Marg Jackson contributed to this report.