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September Brings Festival, Little Chocolate To Town
The younger attendees of the annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival were all smiles as they spun, slid, and whizzed on a variety of rides this weekend, Sept. 25 and 26. The mild weather made the day enjoyable and fun to spend some time on the amusement rides. KIM VAN METER/THE LEADER

Moving from late May to late September brought some changes to the annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival.

Perhaps most notably, the lack of chocolate.

While there were a handful of vendors selling the sweet confection, many of the vendors that come to the festival the third weekend of May couldn’t make it the last weekend of September.

After having to cancel the festival altogether in 2020 due to the pandemic, Oakdale Chamber of Commerce officials wanted to get one in this year, but had to wait until restrictions eased and gatherings were once again allowed.

That pushed the date to late September.

“It was definitely not our normal size event,” said Chamber CEO Trisha K. Brown, “but we can’t expect it to be with us still being in the middle of a pandemic, this being September instead of May; many regular vendors are scheduled elsewhere in the month of September, and there were several events scheduled nearby at the same time.”

The weather turned out to be one of the best things about having the festival this past weekend, Sept. 25 and 26, with sunny skies and a cool breeze keeping the temperatures pleasant throughout the event.

“We were at about 4600 (attendees) on Saturday and 5000 on Sunday,” added Brown. “Overall I feel it all went well. We received great feedback from vendors that there wasn’t the normal large crowd like there has been in the past, but more were buying.”

Music, the classic car show, booths with familiar products such as Scentsy and Tupperware were featured, along with a variety of foods and beverages and specialty booths with arts and crafts, jewelry and more.

As they have done in the past, the Chamber offered $1 off the admission fee for those bringing a canned good to donate, with the collection going to Oakdale Community Sharing for its food cupboard.

That collection was also successful, said Brown.

“Community Sharing estimates about 1200 to 1500 pounds” of canned goods were donated, she pointed out.

They were unable to host the Chocolate Challenge stages this year but hopes are those will return in the future.

“We introduced a Cornhole Tournament on Saturday that was a great hit with 61 participants,” Brown said. “We had 40 cars in our Saturday show and 21 cars in our Sunday show.”

Another change this year was that the annual Chocolate Festival Run, which features both a one-mile fun run and a 5k, was turned in to a virtual event. Sunday morning, when the run was scheduled, would normally have seen runners gathering on G Street prior to the 8 a.m. start for the mile but the street was eerily deserted, even as booths began setting up to welcome in the festival crowd just a little further east along G.

And while officials are pleased that they were able to get a festival in for 2021, they will soon get down to business working on the next one.

“We are already planning for our regular scheduled third weekend of May for the Oakdale Chocolate Festival for 2022,” Brown said.

Con Agra was on hand at the annual Oakdale Chocolate Festival on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25 and 26 to hand out free chocolate pudding packs to festival goers. The annual festival is usually held in May but due to state pandemic restrictions was rescheduled for the fall. KIM VAN METER/THE LEADER
The kids’ area was filled with eager riders as they took advantage of the temperate weather for the annual Chocolate Festival, held Sept. 25 and 26. Prior to the pandemic, the annual festival was held in May but statewide restrictions necessitated a change in date for this year. KIM VAN METER/THE LEADER