Put the chocolate milk back in the fridge kids, because the chocolate game just got wilder. UC Santa Cruz’s Women’s Club will be having their seventh annual Chocolate Festival this weekend. Cancel all your appointments, you’ll be there for awhile.
This coming Sunday, at the Cocoanut Grove at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Chocolate Festival will feature several restaurants, bakeries and chocolatiers offering their specialty chocolates for sampling and for sale. With a vast assortment of chocolate in all forms, from cakes and cookies to drinks and ice creams, the festival offers something for everyone. The festival will also have several wines available to pair with the sweet treats.
“I recommend that visitors walk around first and check out the variety of offerings,” said Women’s Club member Laurie Salatich. “For an adult with a six taste ticket, I suggest choosing two savory items, two sweet items and sampling two wines.”
Some of the vendors will be locals such as Chocolate the Restaurant, Harwell Hot Chocolate and Original Sin Desserts. Other vendors such as Ashby Chocolate from Scotts Valley and Saratoga Chocolates will join the festival for the first time.
Aside from the delicacies, visitors can enjoy a live performance by local jazz band Jazz by Five and experience a demonstration by the Cabrillo College Culinary Program of how chocolate is made, from bean to candy. The festival also offers hands-on activities like cupcake decorating and a silent auction with exciting items such as Giants box seats and wine tours.
“I love when the doors open and the first patrons push in,” said Women’s Club board member Ann Berry-Kline. “I love working with and meeting the vendors and getting to know them.”
Every Chocolate Festival presents the awaited Chocoholic of the Year Award to celebrate and honor one of many community members. Founder of the Chocolate Festival Lorraine Margon won last year’s award.
“Although I did get the event started and I do love chocolate, I never expected to be nominated, let alone be the winning nominee,” Margon said. “It was very gratifying to be recognized in this way, especially because of my close association with the event and the many, many hours of volunteer work I put into it to get it going and keep it going during the first several years.”
The Chocolate Festival is the Women’s Club’s largest fundraiser for UCSC re-entry students — those who have been away from higher education for five years or more. The Annual Chocolate Festival raised over $60,000 over the last six years for students in the Services for Transfer and Re-Entry Students Program (STARS). Fourth-year Ruben Barron, a 2013 recipient, used his scholarship to fund his pursuit of art.
“When I received the scholarship, it furthered evolved the state of my work tremendously here at UCSC,” Barron said. “It was through the scholarship funding that I was able to build UCSC’s first immersive 3D art experience.”
When Lorraine Margon first started the Chocolate Festival, she sent letters to many vendors throughout the greater Santa Cruz and Monterey area. Luckily, with 17 vendors and 600 attendees, the first festival set a high bar of success that continues to this year.
First hosted by downtown Santa Cruz’s former Attic Café and Art Gallery in 2008 the festival moved to the Cocoanut Grove in at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in 2009 and continues being successful ever since.
“It’s great that the community is so supportive of this event,” Margon said. “Their love of chocolate is part of the reason, but many people know they are supporting students who need financial assistance and it’s wonderful that members of the UCSC Women’s Club — all of whom are volunteers — can raise additional funds to help students in this way. It’s become a well-known event now, and so many look forward to it year after year, and many also take pride in having attended each one thus far.”
The Chocolate Festival will take place this Sunday, Jan. 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Cocoanut Grove at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Six-taste tickets are $15.