By Kraig Klein and Virain Palta
The temperature was hovering around 41 degrees Fahrenheit outside the entrance to the “I Love Chocolate Fest” in the Huntington parking lot. Festival attendees walked through the entrance, a façade of a gingerbread house filled with replicas of Willy Wonka’s famous candy bars, and into a procession of local stores and food trucks—and, most notably, chocolatiers. Beyond the entrance, one man was merrily strolling with a friend through the festival grounds, gripping a cup of steaming hot chocolate in his hand.
“It’s very nice and very diverse,” Nick Dinielli, a festival attendee, said. “They have heat in the [main] tent.”
Held in the parking lot of the Walt Whitman Shop’s Lord and Taylor store, the fifth iteration of the “I Love Chocolate Fest” featured over 100 stalls packed with local businesses offering their wares throughout the entire day. Sprinkled throughout the venue’s avenues were over twenty local restaurants selling their freshly cooked meals, chilled alcohol, and handcrafted merchandise. Also present at the festival were several different merchandise shops and a small pavilion showcasing art. The one theme that bound everything together? Chocolate.
“I’m loving it,” Isaiah Ramos, Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery employee, said as he stood before several brightly-colored glass bottles. “I love chocolate, and the people are great.”
Ramos was promoting his company’s chocolate-flavored Cowboy Coffee near the entrance to the festival. Nearby, Bella’s Cookie Butters employee Isabella Freites was pitching her own wares to passersbys.
“We have cookie bars, brownies, blondies,” Freites said. “I do all these events…they’re really fun. Who doesn’t love chocolate?”
Interview with Shop Owners:
The “I Love Chocolate Fest” began at the Old Bethpage Restoration five years ago before moving to the Huntington Station parking lot this year. This year’s version of the festival took place around a massive, heated tent emplaced in the middle of the small area. Inside the tent, local baker Maria Galano hosted a smorgasbord of freshly prepared treats all baked by her company, Baked 4 U…By Maria.
“[We offer] cake pops, cannoli cheese cubes, Italian cakes, and cannoli,” Galano said. “So far, [turnout’s been] not bad.”
Chocolate Duck employee Christina Bisbee was helping at her employees’ stall at the opposite end of the tent from Galano’s.
“Anything dipped in chocolate—we have bacon pretzel clusters, chocolate-dipped pretzels, devil’s dogs, Twinkies cake, you name it,” Bisbee said. “I’ve been doing this festival for years now, and we enjoy it. We love selling chocolate, and we do very well at it.”
Sandwiched between Galano and Bisbee, Southampton Soap Company employee Deborah O’Shaunghnessy was promoting her company’s wares.
“We make a specialty sea salt and cocoa bar,” O’Shaunghnessy said. “People go bonkers for [it.]”
Desserts and chocolate-flavored consumables were not the only products on sale at the festival. On opposite ends of the festival, food trucks offered wontons, corn dogs, and other hot dishes to attendees. Some of the stalls were rented out by stores offering knitted sweaters, hats, and toys. In the far left corner of the area, some bounce houses had been erected for children to play in.
“[It] took about four hours [to set the bounce houses up],” Ryan Bergmann, Jump & Jam Long Island employee, said. “Whole parking lot was empty when we set up.”
The festival was held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the parking lot and continued the next day for the same amount of time. The festival managers declined to comment.