Saturday afternoon marked the 13th annual Romantic Willimantic Chocolate Festival, taking place within and around several local businesses along Main Street, Willimantic, renamed “The Chocolate Chip Stroll.”
The event began with an early morning 5k around the greater Willimantic area, ending around 10:30 a.m. The 5k benefitted the Windam Area Interfaith Ministry, or WAIM. Afterward, businesses and community organizations participating in the festival welcomed runners and festival goers to free samples of chocolate and local products of art and baked goods. Several businesses also offered discounted rates on their wares, such as the Willimantic Food Co-op, which marked many of their products by 10 percent.
Representatives from The Farmers Cow brand handed out its brand chocolate milk at Quinnebog Valley Community College. The First Congregational Church of Willimantic, Jewels Verne Jewelers and Edible Arrangements were among the many handing out brand products and home baked goods.
“I had a healthy flow of people all day. Families and their children mostly. I wanted to highlight the community college during the festival. I saw more than a hundred people,” Elkin Espitia, a coordinator from QVCC, said.
Community events happening in the area were abundant. Among these events Eastern CT Railroad Museum showcased a railroad model and hosted local musicians Bruce John and Jason Alteiri. Swiftwaters Artisans Co-op hosted a basket drawing filled with chocolate as well as hand crafted outerwear, jewelry and wall art sold made by the members of the Co-op.
“Doesn’t matter the weather, people still come out. It’s always a good turnout for us. Whether we sell, or not, people interested in becoming a part of this co-op sometimes come in and ask,” Glenna Adams, a member of the Swiftwaters Artisans Co-op, said.
The Kerry Art gallery hosted a cake baking contest. 20 cakes were entered amongst four categories, child, young adult, adult and theme. Each cake was judged on the criteria of taste, texture, appearance and presentation. Professionals were not allowed to enter, the contest being purely community based. The winning cakes were then bid on by the public at the event. The highest bid was on the theme cake at $25.
Robert Landolphi, the culinary operations manager of the University of Connecticut’s dining services was a judge. Serving alongside him as judges were also Jennifer White, the owner of Leaf and Flower tea shop on High Street, Willimantic and Rachel Laport, owner of Simply Fresh and organizer of Click Kitchen, a community kitchen.
“This is the third straight year my wife and I have come. She ran the 5k and my son’s birthday is in two weeks. To get a cake made here [A Cupcake for Later] has become an annual tradition,” Matt Walsh, a resident of Windham, said.
Matthew Gilbert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.