Have you ever attended Chocolate Stoll? I didn’t know anything about it in 2014 when my neighbor, Ann Booth, asked me if I would help out with the children’s activities that year at Chocolate Stroll. Not knowing what I was getting into, I cheerfully agreed because I mainly heard the word “chocolate.”

Still not fully knowing what Chocolate Stroll was, I organized my husband and daughters into shifts to help me out with M&M Bingo and a Chocolate Cupcake Walk and headed to spend the day at Chocolate Stroll. I lost my voice that day calling out Bingo numbers over the music performances that were situated next to the children’s activities, but had a great time.

I heard back from the rest of my family what Chocolate Stroll was like; they spent the day, when not helping me out, going in and out of shops and finding the wide variety of chocolate that was available for sample and purchase. We were getting close to our one-year mark of living in Mount Vernon and I was impressed with yet another fun festival in this amazing town.

Since I had become an unofficial member of the Chocolate Stroll committee by helping out, I was asked to attend the wrap-up meeting. I told the other attendees how much I enjoyed helping out and started sharing some ideas I had thought of, such as moving the children’s activities away from the live music so that it would be easier to call out Bingo.

Little did I know that Trude Elliott was ready to cycle off as the chair of the committee, and so my fresh, new ideas ended up getting me nominated to become the next chair of Chocolate Stroll. I spent the next year preparing for my first one in 2015 and have enjoyed being the chair ever since.

The fact that I could walk into a wrap-up meeting sharing the ideas that had been forming in my head for a festival that I had essentially not attended (since I was in one location the entire time) and leave as the chair for the following year’s festival is truly a testament to the accepting and embracing nature of Mount Vernon.

Chocolate Stroll has evolved much over the past seven years. I have been fortunate to serve with a committee that is eager to work together and create a fun and memorable day for the people who attend the event. Each year we evaluate what went well the year before, and try to come up with new ideas to keep Chocolate Stroll fresh and enjoyable for all.

One aspect that I love about Chocolate Stroll is that it gives us a chance to really showcase Mount Vernon to the people who attend the festival. Because of the nature of chocolate and its ability to melt, many of the vendors are set up inside our Uptown shops. This allows visitors to Mount Vernon to really get into our businesses and see what we have to offer here all year long.

If you’ve attended Chocolate Stroll in the past, I hope that you will plan to come again this year and see the new things we have planned for you. The Bijou is hosting a chocolate-themed film festival all day long; which will be especially wonderful after a year of not going to movie theaters.

We have several contests going on during the day since we realized it wouldn’t be feasible to do our “Make It With Chocolate dessert contest.” Visitors will be able to go to each of our information booths and guess how many chocolate candies are in a container. The person with the closest guess will win the container and some other chocolate-themed prizes.

We also have a Chocolate Passport contest where visitors are encouraged to use the map we prepare with all the information on it for Chocolate Stroll. The Uptown Businesses will each have a stamp to mark their location on the map. If participants get at least 50 percent of the locations stamped, they can turn in their map for a drawing for a basket of items from local businesses and other chocolate-themed gifts.

If you’ve never attended Chocolate Stroll, I hope that you will make plans now to attend. This is truly a festival for everyone. From crafts that feature cute sayings about chocolate, to the folks from Fur Fun Rescue coming to remind people not to feed chocolate to pets, our committee has tried to plan a great day for all attendees and to give first-time visitors to Mount Vernon an introduction to this marvelous town so that they will make plans to come back again.

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