Here’s a tip: Skip breakfast if you’re headed to the Oakdale Chocolate Festival today.
There’s simply too much yummy stuff to sample, so it’s best to come hungry.
Spring attracts tons of community festivals, but it’s tough to beat one focused on chocolate especially when it’s mixed with nuts.
Literally millions of almond trees now surround Oakdale, and that’s why “Chocolates Gone Nuts” is this year’s theme.
Free tastes are a mainstay of this two-day event, which is in its 22nd year.
Don’t miss the Mustang Toffee, whipped up by Oakdale couple Sam and Dan McGinnis. It’s toffee and locally grown roasted almonds, coated with semisweet chocolate.
“I learned how to make toffee as a freshman at Oakdale High back when they had home economics,” recalled Sam McGinnis, explaining why she named a toffee variety after the school’s mascot.
Samples of their chocolaty So Much S’mores toffee seemed to be the crowd favorite Saturday.
The McGinnises launched their Cowboy Toffee Co. three years ago, and they market their treats online and at festivals.
“This is one of our best events for sales,” McGinnis said. “The crowd really supports local companies.”
Escalon’s Ruby Oliva was busy selling her marshmallow goodies coated with chocolate and nuts, including locally grown walnuts and almonds.
Ruby’s Rocky Road takes “lots of imagination and hard work,” assured Oliva, while handing out slices of her product. She started her company three years ago after being laid off from her job. Now she makes custom orders for special occasions and events, and she promotes her handmade goodies online.
“This is just a little side business for me, and it allows me to get my children involved to learn how business works,” explained Oliva, who home-schools her seven children.
Freddie and Darlene Graham of Turlock, who retired from one business only to start another, also are handing out flavorful samples at the festival.
“We just started Crazy 4 Nuts last year, and the Chocolate Festival was our best event of the year,” said Freddie Graham, who passed around chocolate-and-coconut-coated almonds he had roasted on the spot.
“We owned a machine shop for 20-plus years before retiring,” Graham said.
Now the couple participates in about three festivals a month. “We got ourselves working more than we thought we would, but we love it.”
The crowd also loves the free samples and the abundant food booths at the downtown Oakdale event.
Anita Vitti of Patterson treated herself to a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and encrusted with nuts.
“It’s $4, but to me it’s worth it,” Vitti said.