Heaven for chocolate aficionados – that’s the City of Fairfax Chocolate Lovers Festival. And this year’s 23rd annual extravaganza is set for Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 7-8.
The scrumptious and fun-filled weekend features everything from a competition to see who can make the most beautiful and creative chocolate sculptures, cakes and cupcakes to a chocolate-themed movie and a luscious sampling of chocolate treats from area vendors. It’s also a chance to buy mouthwatering presents for Valentine’s Day.
Indeed, said Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne, “Chocolate Lovers and Valentine’s Day make the City of Fairfax a perfect destination in February. The festival began more than 20 years ago and attracts people from all over the region and beyond.
“Whether you like white, milk or dark chocolate, there’s chocolate for every taste,” he continued. “Last year, we had a record crowd, and I expect this year’s to be even bigger and better.” Besides, added Silverthorne, “Who can resist chocolate-covered strawberries? They’re my personal favorite.”
The festivities actually begin a week earlier, on Friday, Jan. 31, with a Sweet History Walking Tour of Old Town Fairfax’s Historic District. It runs from 4:30-6 p.m. and includes the Ratcliffe-Allison House, Old Town Hall, historic Fairfax County Courthouse and the Ford House. Pre-registration is required. For more information and to register, go to www.chocolatefestival.net; click on “Events” and then “Sweet History Walking Tour.”
Then on Feb. 7-8 will be a full slate of activities including face-painting, musical performances, fairy tales, a fire-safety puppet show, a Chocolate Caper mock trial, cupcake-decorating, magic, juggling and open houses in historic buildings. A Chocolate Express will provide free, shuttle service between event locations. It’ll run Saturday, Feb. 7, from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 8, from 11:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Chocolate Festival initially began as a joint effort of the City of Fairfax, Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Fairfax Coalition, Downtown Fairfax Merchants Assn. and George Mason University. The goal was to attract visitors to Old Town Fairfax, encourage participation in the community and foster cooperation among the city government, businesses and local residents. This year’s sponsors are the 29 Diner and Twins Ace Hardware.
Since the first festival was held in February 1993, it’s become one of the City’s most popular events. A treat for all the senses, it’s chocked-full of activities for children and adults, alike. Offering a wide array of chocolate candy, cake, sauce, pancakes, fudge, ice cream – and even chocolate fountains and a commemorative, chocolate cookbook – the festival promises something for everyone.
Pancakes, Taste of Chocolate
A good place to start on Saturday, Feb. 7, is at Fire Station 3, at 4081 University Drive, with the annual, Kiwanis Club Pancake Breakfast and Bake Sale, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feast on regular or chocolate-chip pancakes, plus sausage, coffee, juice and milk. Cost is $7, adults; $4, children ages 4-10. Children 3 and under eat free with a paying adult (limit two children per adult). Face-painting will be available.
The festival’s centerpiece, the Taste of Chocolate, will be held Saturday, Feb. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 8, from noon-4 p.m., on both floors of the Old Town Hall, 3999 University Drive (corner of Main Street and University Drive). Strollers may be left on the building’s front porch; a fully accessible entrance is at the door on Main Street.
Admission is free; visitors buy pogs for $1 each and then browse around the vendors’ tables to check out the wide array of chocolate treats being offered. When something catches their fancy, they pay for it in pogs.
For example, a slice of cake could cost three pogs, or a customer could buy three small pieces of candy for two pogs. The vendors set their own prices, and roaming volunteers in red aprons will have plenty of pogs on hand for people wanting to purchase more.
And the variety of goodies is a chocolate lover’s dream-come-true. There are chocolate cakes, all kinds of chocolate candies and bars, chocolate-covered strawberries, fudge, ice cream and even chocolate fountains into which customers may dip fruit, cream-filled doughnut holes or marshmallows.
This year’s Taste of Chocolate vendors include: C & D Sweets, Cakes by Shelby, Cameron’s Coffee & Chocolates, Capitol Chocolate Fountains; Chocotenago, Confection Connection, Dave’s Candy Kitchen, El Ceibo, Extreme Ice Cream, Fair Trade Winds, Fluffy Thoughts Cakes, Mike’s Fudge, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Sugar Mama’s Ice Cream, The Chocolatier’s Palette, Virginia Chocolate Co. and Watergate Pastry. The Independence Day Celebration Committee is sponsoring this event.
Another major highlight of the festival is the Chocolate Challenge, a display of imaginative chocolate cakes, cupcakes and sculptures. It takes place at the Nutrition Kitchen, 3950 University Drive, and runs Feb. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Feb. 8, from noon-4 p.m.
Both professionals and amateurs participate, and judges and visitors judge them in various categories. Visitors may use their admission ticket to vote for the People’s Choice Award winner and also participate in the silent action of challenge entries, plus items from local businesses.
Celebrity judges include City Councilman Jeff Greenfield, Dean Thomas Prohaska of GMU’s College of Health and Human Services, Sabrina Campbell of Occasionally Cake, and Mike Hensley of Victoria’s Cakery. Donated cakes and other items will be open for silent-auction bidding through Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $1/adult; children under 18 are free. A designated stroller-parking area is outside the building.
Each year, the Chocolate Lovers Festival Committee chooses a charitable organization to which it donates part of the proceeds raised during the festival. This year’s recipient of the Chocolate Lovers Festival Grant is The Lamb Center. Besides offering food, clothing and hot showers to the homeless, it works with other entities to try to find them job counseling, transportation and housing.
For more information about the festival, go to www.chocolatefestival.net or call 703-385-7858.