Willy Wonka, eat your heart out. It’s Chocolate Festival time

Who says there’s nothing to do in the winter at the beach? You can eat chocolate!

The 21st annual Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival will be held at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center on Saturday, March 5, starting at 11:30 a.m. Tastings will continue until 3:30 p.m. or until the chocolate runs out.

Hundreds and hundreds of chocoholics come each year to enjoy the Chocolate Festival, said Jenny Barger, executive director of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, which puts on the festival.

“First-timers are always shocked to see so much chocolate in one space. The variety of recipes submitted for sampling is amazing,” she said.

This year, organizers have added a “Kid’s Showpiece” category since so many chocolate lovers younger than had been making creative chocolate sculptures in previous years.

Barger said Rehoboth Cooperative Preschool will be presenting chocolate-themed kids activities on the Convention Center stage, and Rehoboth Beach Main Street will provide a milk stand.

Barger said that, for someone who has never been to the festival, the day could be described as “a fabulous day of chocolate, with tastes galore, vendors, a raffle, kids’ games and much more!”

This year’s vendors include Cake Bar by Sugar Bakers, Cake Break, Hobo’s Restaurant & Bar, Kilwin’s Candy, Oasis Bath & Body Boutique, The Point Coffee House & Bake Shoppe, Snyder’s Candy, Tout de Suite Patisserie and Village Improvement Association.

Entry tickets cost $2 at the door, and people can buy as many tastes as they’d like, for 50 cents each. (Sorry, but no carry-out is permitted.) Children younger than 5 will be admitted free of charge. For those who desire lunch in between chocolate appetizers and desserts, Main Street will provide all-American hot dogs and drinks.

“It’s a day of fun for the whole family,” added Barger.

At the heart of the festival is the chocolate Baking Contest, open to anyone who wants to enter. The official baking contest entry form is available at www.downtownrehoboth.com.

Chocolate-bakers can enter in the following groupings: Restaurants, Bakery, Professional/Chef, Amateur and Children Under 12; as well as the contests for Showpiece and Showpiece for Children Under 12. Prizes and ribbons are given in each group for the categories of cookies, brownies, pies, cheesecakes, candy, cakes and “most unusual.”

Prizes include downtown gift certificates, plaques and ribbons, ribbons, ribbons! Anyone can register for the baking contest on the morning of the festival by bringing their entries to Convention Hall between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. for judging.

The Chocolate Festival benefits Rehoboth Beach Main Street and Friends of Rehoboth Library. Both organizations generally receive a few thousand dollars each, said Barger. She added that the event is a “really great supporter of both groups.”

Rehoboth Beach Main Street is a non-profit organization “devoted to keeping downtown Rehoboth economically vibrant and looking great.” They bring community events to shoppers, diners and visitors, as a way to encourage them to spend money in the local economy, and to provide economic programs to support independent businesses and locally-owned franchises to keep money circulating in the local economy.

They also have a taste for history.

“We encourage architectural programs, to encourage a preservation ethic, a sense of history and renovation/restoration programs to enhance downtown buildings, signage and streetscapes,” said Barger.

But, alas, this first Saturday in March, they have a taste for treats, talent, and good old-fashioned fun. She concluded, “The best part of the Chocolate Festival is the beautiful combination of wonderful culinary talent, community and family fun!”

For more information, visit www.downtownrehoboth.com.