By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
If you love chocolate (and who doesn’t?), mark your calendars for February 6-7, 2016: the annual Chocolate Lovers Festival returns in the City of Fairfax! This two-day event, held on the first full weekend of February each year, features activities for all to enjoy, including the Taste of Chocolate with scrumptious samplings, the Chocolate Challenge with amazing creations, the ever-popular Kiwanis Chocolate Chip Pancake Breakfast, and more. Non-food activities include open houses at historic buildings, children’s entertainment, and more.
Some events require a fee, and other events are free to all visitors. The activities take place at various sites in downtown Fairfax (see the festival home page for a site map). In all, you can expect about 20 events during the two days. One of my favorites is seeing the fantastic displays of chocolate cakes, cupcakes and sculptures by professionals and amateurs alike in the Chocolate Challenge both days. Admission to the challenge is just $1 per adult and free for kids under 18, and you can even vote on your favorites. Best of all, you can even bid on a silent auction to win some of these fantastic treats!
To get an idea of what you’ll find, below are some photos I took at the 2012 Chocolate Challenge. Also scroll down to see our very useful tips for attending this event!
It’s amazing the detail in some of the creations (the photos here don’t do them justice), especially in the cases where the sculptures are completely edible, made only from chocolate and not wires, plastic, or other materials, as the note to the right shows. Some of the creations will be more elaborate than others, some fancy and some whimsical, some by professionals and some by students. There are various categories in the challenge and it’s fun to see what different people of different ability levels create.
If you find something you love, remember to see if it’s been donated to the silent auction!
Remember the Chocolate Challenge is different from (and in a different location than) the Taste of Chocolate (10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, noon to 4 pm on Sunday), where you can sample and purchase cakes, candies, brownies, fudge, ice cream, and other delicious concoctions. Admission to Taste of Chocolate is free to view; for samples and merchandise, you use Pogs you buy for $1 each.Beyond all the chocolate fun, family-friendly activities include tours of local historic sites within walking distance, the “Chocolate Caper” mock trial, face painting, a fire safety puppet show, photo opps with Harley-Davidson motorcycles, stories and music with KayDee Puppets, and more.
I’ve attended this festival a few times so I can offer the following useful tips to make your experience more enjoyable.Plan ahead: The festival takes place during two days, and not all activities are offered on both days. Look at the schedule in advance so you can plan your day and have options in case you encounter lines. Remember that some activities such as the kids’ shows may require reservations even if they’re free, because of space limitations so call ahead to check about this, as there may not be walk-in spots on the event day.Expect lines: To be perfectly honest, the lines can get very bad, at least for the chocolate tastings, based on my experience in previous years. Be prepared to wait and/or have a “plan B” for another activity at the festival, and bundle up since this is during February and for some events the line may wrap around outside.Bring your own treats if you have allergies: If your kids have food allergies (milk, soy, peanuts, etc.), you may want to bring your own “safe” treats to give to them. Remember that the folks that are staffing the sampling booths are not necessarily the ones who made the treats and may not be able to give you answers on specific ingredients or processes.Bid on the auctions: Remember the Chocolate Lovers Festival takes place the week before Valentine’s Day. If you’re looking for a unique gift for a special someone, or you’re attending a celebration, a chocolate creation that you might win at the auction could be the perfect thing!
Take advantage of the shuttle: Make the most of your time (and festival fun) by riding the “Chocolate Express,” the free shuttle service that will go to all locations all day during the weekend event.
Photos (c) Patricia Hall
Also see our full list of upcoming chocolate festivals!