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Get sweet and nutty at the Oakdale Chocolate Festival

Hankering for sweetness? Mosey on down to the 23rd Annual Chocolate Festival in Oakdale, where ‘Chocolates Gone Nuts’ again and will be filled with a variety of family fun, good food, entertainment and an assortment of tasty treats. The two-day fest is on the calendar for May 16 and 17 in downtown Oakdale.

With almonds and walnuts being among the top five products of Stanislaus County and several orchards surrounding the area, it only made sense for the Oakdale District Chamber of Commerce to add nuts to the chocolate event and continue the same successful theme as last year. Over 30,000 acres of walnuts and almonds are within a seven-mile radius of Oakdale.

The Chocolate Festival has doubled in venue size since the first fest in 1993, and through the years there has been an increased participation from local non-profit groups. The first year of the festival, chocolate tasting was held at the Community Center with only eight vendors and now the streets of downtown will burst with over 25 chocolate booths alone. Over 175 vendors will be on hand to offer a number of items like sweet treats, food items, crafts, clothing, collectibles and so much more. Black Tie Caramel will be a new vendor on hand this year offering handmade caramels.

Festival admission is $6 for those 12 and over, those under 12 are admitted free. There are discount tickets available prior to the event and if a canned food item is brought in the day of the event, festival goers will get a dollar off admission. This fee allows the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce to give back to 15 to 20 local clubs and organizations that help with the festival, providing them with a donation following the event, giving them ‘a cut’ of the proceeds.

Oakdale was once home to a Hershey Chocolate plant and in the early years of the festival, they worked with the Chamber of Commerce and provided tours of the plant during the weekend. When the company moved, Chamber officials decided to maintain the festival and have been able to continue attracting huge crowds and plenty of chocolate-themed vendors. Sconza Candy Company, which now occupies the former Hershey plant, has become a mainstay of the festival.

Oakdale Chamber Chief Executive Officer Mary Guardiola said the Hershey tours were a great tie in, but noted that “the event has continued with much success and there may be other tours in the future of Oakdale businesses during the festival.”

The festival’s Main Stage will have non-stop local bands and vocalists both days like Third Party Band, Highway 99 Party Band, Callbox, a kid band called Silly String Band, and Francesca Bavaro, just to name a few. The Chocolate Challenge Stage will host three chocolate challenge game times each day along with five performances each day of local dancers, karate demonstrations, and gymnastics.

To remind you that you are in the ‘Cowboy Capital’ there will be five performances each day of a Buffalo Bill style show with gun fights, quick draw competitions, whip cracking demonstrations, gun safety, and strolling performances.

The family festival will also have kids’ rides, pony rides, and a petting zoo. This year the classic car show is a benefit for Project Heroes and has added a scale car drag racing track in addition to the 80-plus cars that will be on display.

“They will also have die cast cars and wood model kits to purchase and take home,” added Guardiola. “This is some added fun for the car enthusiast and those that can’t drive quite yet.”

The first couple of years there was a tennis tournament that corresponded with the festival and now each year includes a Chocolate Festival run.

The Fun Run will be held Saturday morning and is a 5k or one mile walk or run.

“We have many groups that come out to participate in this, a little competition among friends or just to help stay healthy,” said Guardiola. “This event is on Saturday morning only and the first 100 that sign up get a $10 certificate to discover new varieties of craft bean-to-bar chocolates from Cococlectic.”

Interested parties can register on or at the Oakdale Chamber website.

This weekend event that is usually held on the third weekend in May typically brings in 50,000 to 60,000 people over the two days. The Oakdale Chocolate Festival will be held this year on Saturday, May 16 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“While most of the chocolate is located in Wood Park we do have a few scattered around to tempt you as you stroll,” stated Guardiola. “This event promotes tourism for Oakdale.”

The day is sure to please with a variety of enjoyable events, bands, vocalists, food, and the spotlight on chocolates to taste or to watch on the Chocolate Challenge stage hosted by the Hawk radio station. Participants of the challenge will win prizes like chocolate or other candy items.

“So in addition to strolling around the arts and craft areas and eating the yummy food you can have some fun with chocolate,” expressed Guardiola.

Thousands of people from all over attend the two-day festival and with warm weather on the horizon, it is sure to be a day of fun.

Visit downtown Oakdale this May for the 23rd annual Chocolate Festival; your taste buds are sure to thank you.