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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Burlington's ChocolateFest Turns 25

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Burlington's ChocolateFest will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend, with four days of chocolate-themed tastings, demonstrations and contests from Friday, May 27, through Memorial Day, May 30, at 681 Maryland Ave., Burlington.

For much of its history, the event was a chocolate festival in name only, its title a nod to Burlington's nickname, “Chocolate City,” which the city picked up for its Nestle factory. It began as a quintessential community festival, with a carnival, a parade, fireworks and live music.

“We'd get a lot of feedback from people who would say, 'This is great, but where's the chocolate?'” recalls the event's marketing director, Linda Fellenz. “So in 2006 we added a chocolate tent to make it a true chocolate fest.”

A fund-raiser for civic organizations that is organized and staffed entirely by volunteers, the event has grown quickly ever since, selling more than 40,000 tickets last year. This year the chocolate tent features 20 chocolatiers and will host multiple cooking demonstrations. On Friday, John McGivern will host a “2011 Chef MeltDown,” a contest modeled after the Food Network's “Iron Chef” competitions, where three professional chefs will create a full-course meal from chocolate and other predetermined ingredients. The “Project Yum-Way” contest on Saturday and Sunday challenges participants to design clothes from candy wrappers. There will also be a wine and chocolate pairing and beer tasting on Sunday night at 8 p.m.

Vendors will be selling traditional confections, including chocolate-covered pretzels and strawberries, as well as some unusual ones, like chocolate-covered Twinkies and chocolate-covered pickles. The music lineup includes regional festival mainstays like Pat McCurdy, The Toys and The LoveMonkeys.

Gate tickets are $7 and include admission to most events, save for Sunday's wine pairing, which is $12. For more information, visit www.chocolatefest.com.
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