Tens of thousands of chocolate lovers came out for this year’s Oakdale Chocolate Festival over the weekend with Mother Nature especially cooperative, bringing sunny skies with temperatures in the mid to upper-80s and a slight breeze to keep everyone comfortable.
“I have lots of happy patrons and happy merchants,” said Oakdale Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola. “Having good weather always makes a difference.”
The Chamber of Commerce reported that local hotels were at least 95 percent sold out for Saturday night and the total attendance for the festival was over 55,000 paying patrons.
Toni Rushing from Fresno brought her two-year-old daughter Regan to experience the event.
“It’s always a great time,” said Rushing. “We have relatives in the area and we come every year.”
Bands entertained on the main stage and at the Sierra Dinner Train with a car show attracting crowds of onlookers
Attendees strolled through Chocolate Avenue with all its booths with the chance to sample and buy sweet tasting confections.
Ethan Ash was a first timer at this year’s festival bringing out his award-winning organic chocolate from the Tea Room of San Leandro in one of the Chocolate Avenue booths.
“It’s been busy and steady both days,” said Ash. “We have good samples and we’ve made lots of sales.”
Another newcomer to the event was Bibby Lundy of Bibby’s Chocolate in Modesto. Lundy said she had to select between having her booth at the Lodi Zin Fest or at the Chocolate Festival on the same weekend.
“We chose to be local and I’m glad we did,” said Lundy, who has been making chocolate for 28 years and just went into business. “This weekend has been great. We’re nearly sold out.”
This was the festival’s 20th year and 38 Oakdale businesses were among the businesses taking part.
“The Chamber is very pleased with the success of the event,” said Guardiola. “It is not possible without a great Chamber staff, Chamber Board of Directors and family and the hundreds of volunteers from the non-profit organizations.”
Guardiola added she was glad that the third weekend of May brings so many visitors to Oakdale every year and the event has turned out to go so smoothly.
“After 20 years, you sort of get a system down,” she said.
Some of the proceeds from the festival benefit 21 various non-profit organizations.