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Coo-Coo for Chocolate

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Wilmington Wine & Chocolate Festival
2/3, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Grand Tasting, $45
Showcase days: 2/4, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.;
2/5, noon – 6 p.m. • $14.20
wilmingtonwineandchocolatefestival.com

What could possibly be better than a weekend-long festival revolving around chocolate? Try adding wine to the focus. And live music. And a silent auction. And riverfront views. All within a mere weeks before Valentine’s Day. Oh, and did I mention it’s all for a good cause?

After a year in hiding, the Wilmington Chocolate Festival is back under a new name: the Wilmington Wine and Chocolate Festival. Event coordinators Marianna Stacy and Paula Recko, along with a plethora of dedicated volunteers, have been busily planning an extraordinary weekend for the past two years. As in its past, the festival is a non-profit event, benefitting the Volunteer Older Citizens Action League (V.O.C.A.L.), an organization which provides programs and services for seniors in the area. I spoke with Marianna Stacy to gather all its decadent details.

“We were always a chocolate festival only,” Stacy asserts, “and we had a vision and a plan for a number of years now to officially incorporate wine in our event.”

The 2010 event at the New Hanover Senior Resource Center garnered over 6,000 chocolate lovers, with lines snaking onto the street. “We don’t have any more room there,” Stacy explains about their 2012 move to the Coastline Conference and Event Center. “We had to regroup and find a new home and venue.”

Overlooking the Cape Fear River downtown, the folks skipped 2011 to plan a larger, more encompassing fund-raiser that would showcase the best of sweets. It paid off thus far. Returning attendees can expect to see similarities from the past eight festivals, but this year will hold plenty of new surprises. “It’s an old event, but it’s a new event,” Stacy says.

The Grand Tasting will be held Friday night for $45. There will be an abundance of free hors d’oeuvre, along with a silent auction featuring weekend getaways and jewelry. Also, each guest gets to leave with a commemorative wine goblet. Charlotte performers The Brubakers will play their brand of contemporary jazz-pop songs.

“With the North Carolina Jazz Festival next door featuring classical jazz, our goal was to have a different type of jazz,” Stacy says—“an instrumental type with a vocalist.”

The atmosphere on Friday night is designed to be fun and relaxing, yet still elegant. The attire has been set as “coastal-casual.” The coordinators didn’t want an overly formal, black-tie affair. Party-goers should dress like they would for a date or a church service, but no jeans, please.

Debuting will be a European street-market scene, taking place Friday, February 3rd through Sunday, February 5th. Over 60 various wineries, chocolatiers, bakers, and artists from across the state will be offering samples of their favorite products on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday has been the busiest day of the weekend in year’s past. Attendees can still sample and buy various wines and decadences, listen to music, and de-stress with sinful treats. Music and entertainment will be provided every other hour, courtesy of the new Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County. During the in-between hours, Stacy says “a full slate of culinary demonstrations will take place in the Coastline’s adjacent river view terrace room.”

In addition to the wine and desserts, hungry guests can enjoy savory fare. “We will have a café setting, where folks can have a light lunch—something quick while they’re there,” Stacy explains. Various goods will also be available for purchase during the event. A concierge desk and will-call booth will be handled by the Senior Advisory Services Group “so that festival-goers can buy things [and check them] and then pick it all up when they leave,” according to Stacy.

Free parking is available, as shared with the Wilmington Garden Show, also taking place Saturday and Sunday at CFCC. The CFCC and Wilmington Convention center parking garages will be open for paid parking, too. “Of course, there are other parking decks, if people want to stroll downtown,” Stacy reminds.

Showcase tickets can be purchased online or at Harris Teeter stores in the area, from Leland to Surf City. Children under 6 are free. Limited tickets will be sold at the door; all proceeds benefit Wilmington’s V.O.C.A.L.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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