Dogs on leashes, kids with bubbles, toddlers in strollers, hands full of chocolatey treats – these were just a few of the common sights seen in downtown Oakdale this past weekend for the annual Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Chocolate Festival.
“Mother Nature cooperated,” Mary Guardiola, Chamber Chief Executive Officer said. “The weather was perfect.”
As Guardiola prefaced, this year’s Chocolate Festival – the 26th annual – was met with pleasant weather, expanded grounds, and thousands of visitors. By encompassing the skate park and broadening the Festival boundaries, there was room for 45 new vendors, with just under 200 vendors in total at the event – the most vendors that the Festival has seen.
“The attendance for this weekend was 56,000 people spread between both days. From the survey results 65 percent of the attendees were first time attendees,” Guardiola reported. “Those are people not just attending the festival but shopping, getting gas or eating dinner in Oakdale. The top three highlights of attendees were Chocolate Avenue, Car Show and the Arts and Crafts booths.”
Activities were tailored so that everyone had something to enjoy. The annual one-mile and 5k runs were conducted on Saturday morning, followed by a busy day of Chocolate Challenges and dancing. Sunday, May 20, featured belly dancing entertainment and continued games. For foodies, the cooking stage hosted the Untamed Chef’s techniques as well as a Death by Chocolate 4 Layer Cake for festival-goers, presented by Save Mart. Elsewhere, a variety of musical groups set up shop to serenade those who took time out of their normal weekend routine to strolls the grounds.
Much of Sierra Avenue was filled with arts and crafts booths, including face painting, caricatures, and homemade crafts. Farther down Sierra Avenue, next to the train tracks, featured a Kids Zone, complete with bungee jumping, a petting zoo, slides, and games; a perfect spot for young families to spend some time together.
The Oakdale Community Park housed the Chocolate Challenge Stage, hosted by 104.1 the HAWK, though there was still room for skateboarding fair-goers. The Chocolate Challenge organized games three times a day each day for volunteer patrons to participate in.
Between H and G streets was the food court, featuring garlic fries, Mexican food and seafood, funnel cakes, pizza, smoothies, and a plethora of booths with other mouthwatering, typical festival treats.
Guardiola said Chamber officials were pleased with the turnout of visitors, the participation of vendors and also offered thanks to the community of Oakdale for continuing to support the annual event.
Per the name, the festival was also packed with chocolate delicacies. DeBrito featured dozens of flavors of caramel and chocolatey apples, other booths advertised free pudding, cookies, deep fried chocolate ice cream, chocolate egg rolls, chocolate-covered bananas, and many more gooey sweets.
“It’s about chocolate,” Guardiola explained, “but it’s also about the entertainment and fun.”