By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Bristol will soon be raining chocolate and other treats to satisfy that sweet tooth.
The 5th annual Bristol Chocolate Expo will return to the DoubleTree Hotel on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 12 to 6 p.m.
From handcrafted truffles to taffy and fudge to whoopie pies, the event will feature a variety of sweet treats for everyone. Other desserts include caramel-coated and chocolate-dipped Granny Smith apples, chocolate drizzles kettle corn, gourmet jams, cookies—and more.
Started by local entrepreneur Joan Simpson, the Bristol Chocolate Expo has grown in size since its inception. The annual event initially took place at the New England Carousel Museum, but Simpson decided to bring it to the DoubleTree after the size of the crowd grew.
Last year, the expo brought a crowd of nearly 3,500.
“When we started, we had 700 people. The second year, we had 1,500, and we just outgrew,” said Simpson. “It has grown every year. We’re hoping to hit 4,000 this year.”
Known as the “Pumpkin Roll Lady,” Simpson will bring her pig candy (chocolate-covered bacon) and chocolate peanut butter roll to the expo again this year. She also will bring her pumpkin roll.
This year, the expo will feature more chocolate vendors, as well as returning and new vendors from in and outside Connecticut. Many of the vendors are small businesses or local entrepreneurs.
“A few [vendors] that we’ve had for the last couple of years now have storefronts, so they’ve grown into bigger small businesses,” said Simpson.
Before the expo kicks off, 50 people will have VIP access from 11 a.m. to noon. During that time, folks with VIP access will receive a swag bag filled with chocolate and merchandise, and an exclusive dessert buffet. They also can try food samples provided by four local restaurants and will have a chance to enter a money booth.
In addition, VIP goers can vote for the winning cupcake from the Beer Batter Challenge, which took place at four local breweries late last year.
“We had two contestants for each brewery, and they baked beer into the cupcakes,” said Simpson. “We had little parties at each brewery and people who came tasted both cupcakes and they voted for the one they liked the most.”
Cupcakes are not the only kind of challenge at the expo, as cake decorating connoisseurs will face off again during the “Take a Cake” contest, which also serves as a raffle.
During the contest, which will take place from 12-3 p.m., expo goers can vote for their favorite cake, and the cake with the most ballots will win the People’s Choice Award, a cash prize and a trophy. The twist is that all of the raffle winners can “take a cake” home to enjoy.
All proceeds from the raffle benefit the Christian Fellowship Center. Last year, the contest helped raise $700 for Christian Fellowship.
“All of the money from the raffle is donated to Christian Fellowship,” said Simpson.
Besides desserts, the expo will feature a variety of crafts, including chocolate-scented soaps and scrubs, storytelling charm bracelets, hand painted glassware and more.
On the entertainment side, expo goers can expect a DJ, a photo booth and balloon animals created by The Amazing Magical Paul, as well as Lock City Comic Con.
The 5th Annual Bristol Chocolate Expo will take place on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 12 to 6 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, 42 Century Dr., Bristol. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children ages 10 and under, seniors over the age of 60, veterans and military members. For students between the ages of 11 and 21, admission is $5. Tickets will be sold at the door.
For more information, visit the Bristol Chocolate Expo’s Facebook page or website, www.thebristolchocolateexpo.com/.