No golden ticket required.
There is an admission price to enter MOSI’s fourth annual Festival of Chocolate beginning Saturday and running through Monday, however, it’s just as much fun as a rare tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
“The truth is,” founder of The Festival of Chocolate Aileen Mand said, “chocolate crosses every age, every gender, every ethnicity — whether you’re two or 102, just about everyone loves chocolate. It holds a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, and we’ll see everything from families to couples to friends to girl’s day out to chocolate enthusiasts out at the festival. Chocolate brings people together.”
Mand started the festival with her husband, third-generation Argentinian chocolatier Edgar Schaked, on a small scale in Orlando in 2009. She has seen the festival grow each year, especially last year when they set the Guinness World Record for the largest cup of hot chocolate, at 880 gallons. Mand says no records will fall this year, but there will be many vendors in attendance, in addition to a showcase exhibit each day.
“We’re looking even to add a festival to two cities,” Mand said. “We expect anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 people to come this year because, not only will there be local and regional vendors, but those in competition and the plenty of people doing the fun run.”
Starting Saturday, the first showcase will be the Cocoa Couture Fashion Show hitting the “yumway.” Select designers from the International Academy of Design and Technology will conjure up chocolate-inspired and used candy-wrapper couture dresses.
On Sunday, there will be a Live Cake Decorating Competition, where 10 competitors will build cakes to the theme “A Trip to Candyland.” Patrons can watch as cake decorators perfect their cakes in the hope of dethroning last year’s winner, Michelle DiMicco from Mikey’s Cafe and Bakery.
On Monday there will be the inaugural Great American Candy Run, an interactive sweets-themed obstacle course that will have runners making their way through a giant cookie pit, hurdle a peppermint patch and dive through drizzly doughnuts that are part of the confection adventure.
“The (largest cup of hot) cocoa was a huge endeavor, so when we planned this year, we said to ourselves, ‘How do we top it?’ ” Mand said. “We put fitness with chocolate and candy because there are a lot of people who worry about eating too much chocolate. But there are a lot of other interactive things to do, like making chocolate lip balm and roses and sandy candy ... or armpit fudge — basically anything with chocolate.
“I love chocolate (laughs). Over the years, I’ve learned there’s people entrenched in chocolate and that it comes in as many varieties as beer or wine. And chocolate has its connoisseurs, just like beer and wine. Just for chocolate, that’s amazing, too.”
Entry to the festival is included in a full-price MOSI ticket; MOSI members can get into the festival for $10, and it’s free for members’ children; registration for the Candy Run is $10.
For information about the festival visit www.tampa.festivalofchocolate.com.
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.