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Festival of Chocolate to be held at UCF Arena

By Anna-Michelle Lavandier
On April 26, 2012

UCF will be covered in chocolate this weekend by the largest chocolate convention in the southeast the Festival of Chocolate.

This event will take place at the UCF Arena starting on Friday, April 27 at 4 p.m and run through Sunday, April 29.

From its initial beginnings, the Festival of Chocolate has grown rapidly and now reached such a wide audience that it had to be moved to a larger venue, said Director Aileen Mand, who was voted 2011 Event Producer of the Year by BizBash Magazine.

The festival will be showcasing new twists on chocolate and presenting the more commonly seen chocolate. The showcase will include a wide range of creations from brownies, truffles and cakes to mocha chili, chocolate barbecue sauce and meat rubs through demonstrations and workshops for children and adults, according to a press release.

I want to have a better understanding of the different kinds of chocolate. Everyone is used to milk chocolate, but theres dark chocolate and white chocolate, too, said senior hospitality management major Gladys Zapata.

Many local vendors from Orlando, Winter Park, Kissimmee and Lake Mary, and one from as far as Indiana, will be selling their chocolate creations for a low price using a special currency, chocolate coins. According to the Festival of Chocolate website, this will be the only currency allowed during the Festival, and there will be booths set up to exchange cash or credit to this chocolatey currency.

Professional chefs and chocolatiers will be holding demonstrations during the festival to teach guests how to make creative things with chocolate and other desserts in their own homes. A few of these connoisseurs include: award-winning cake designer Mercedes Strachwsky; Executive Chef Vincent Tropepe; and Orlando chocolatier and co-owner of David Ramirez Chocolates, Executive Pastry Chef David Ramirez, according to the Festival of Chocolate website.

Im hoping that people get a new appreciation for their love of chocolate, Mand said. Chocolate is a really interesting food with a rich history. At the Festival of Chocolate, our guests will get schooled in chocolate, from learning how to work with it in the kitchen to understanding how it goes from cocoa bean to chocolate bar.

Senior math education major Arlen Frasqueri is also interested in what the Festival of Chocolate has in store this year.

Im hoping to get a little more information on the different uses and forms of chocolate, Frasqueri said. Im really interested, and my girlfriend really wants to go, so Im going.

An especially sweet treat on Fridays grand opening features a Cocoa Couture fashion show on the Chocolate Yumway. This fashion show showcases clothing that is made purely from different kinds of chocolate wrappers by 18 up-and-coming fashion designers.

Im pretty excited about the event, said freshman hospitality major Todd Currie. It is a chocolate festival, so its got to be good.

Due to the amount of people that kept coming to this event since 2008, it had to be moved from its original location at Florida Mall Hotel. UCF is its new home this year.

We have hosted our event at the Orlando Science Center for the past two years and due to its popularity, the event simply outgrew the venue, Mand said. More open space and the opportunity to introduce ourselves to East Orlando and the students and faculty at UCF made it a great choice.

I think its better for students who want to go because I know some students might not have cars, Currie said. A lot of people know about the UCF Arena.

The event is open to everyone in the community, but students will be able to get a $5 discount on pre-event purchases for the Festival of Chocolate on Friday night only, Mand said.

I cant wait to get chocolate wasted, Zapata said.

Tickets are sold at the UCF Arena Box Office at $15 for adults and $9 for children during advanced purchasing. At the door, adult tickets are $17 and childrens tickets are $11. Tickets can also be purchased online at

Those who purchase in advance get two complementary chocolate coins and a chance to sit at the chocolate judges table.

More information about the Festival of Chocolate including a complete list of events can be found on their website at

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