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Cowboys And Chocolate
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Normal 0 0 1 38 222 oakdale leader 1 1 272 11.1287 0 0 0 Cherie Thurman of Elk Grove proved to be a good sport Sunday, May 16 as her 6-year-old son Nathan poured chocolate syrup down her face in an attempt to win the Hawk stage chocolate challenge as part of the festivities during the 18 th annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader

Some years the weather during the annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival is the invisible and unwelcome festival goer when it brings triple-digit temperatures but this year, the 18th annual chocolate event had mild — even delightfully — perfect weather for the 70,000 attendees who flocked to Oakdale for the weekend.

According to Mary Guardiola, Chief Executive Officer for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, the mellow temperatures likely contributed to the overall excellent vibe from festival attendees and vendors alike.

“It was awesome. Attitudes are always better when it’s not 100 degrees outside,” Guardiola said. “The hotels were full, local merchants in and around the event did well. Overall, everything went very well.”

In spite of more than 30,000 people showing up, over and above the crowd of last year, the change in the venue layout made for an easy, breezy feel as festival goers enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the grounds to visit the 150 featured vendor booths from around the country.

“Even though there was less traffic on Sunday, there were no dead spots throughout the festival. It was very evenly distributed, which was nice,” Guardiola said.

This was the first year the event was pet-friendly, which accounted for the countless number of pooches in attendance.

“We found 25 percent of people who travel, travel with their animals. By allowing it to be pet-friendly we allowed more people to attend the festival,” Guardiola shared of the decision.

There seemed to be a number of first-time attendees this year, taking advantage of the pleasant weather conditions to take a day-trip, such as the Thurman family from Elk Grove who participated in the Chocolate Challenge on Sunday afternoon.

Cherie Thurman hadn’t expected to be leaving the event with chocolate syrup in her hair but she was a good sport about it.

“It was fun,” Thurman said, laughing.

Another couple came from the Bay Area after seeing the road signs advertising the festival two weekends prior.

“I’m a chocoholic,” Carmen Enriquez said. “When I saw the signs I was really excited. I couldn’t wait.”

She and her husband Carlos Enriquez made the trip just to see what a chocolate festival entailed.

The feedback coming to Guardiola from vendors has been positive, some saying they were pleased with their traffic and their sales.

One vendor, Jane Wang of PJ Design Collection, selling genuine jade jewelry was pleased with the turnout.

“I would definitely come back. The traffic has been very good,” Wang said. “I wish for better sales but the economy is hard for everyone.”

Smuckers, a new addition to the festival, was a huge hit as they gave away mini sundaes to promote their new sundae toppings.

“We’re really hoping they return,” Guardiola said. “It was great having them and their mini sundaes were really popular.”