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Chocolate lovers flock to Garden City expo

Thousands flocked to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, for the Chocolate Expo where they sampled and purchased chocolate. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

Thousands of Long Islanders descended upon Garden City’s Cradle of Aviation Museum on Sunday for the sixth Chocolate Expo, sampling everything from chocolate-covered bacon to chocolate beer.

Surrounded by classic planes like the Spirit of St. Louis, hundreds of vendors peddling chocolate of all kinds filled the museum grounds, which formerly housed an Air Force base home to many historic flights.

Event organizer Marvin Baum said that the expo, which has five other locations, was intended to help the local economy. Since its founding in 2006 — it’s only been on Long Island since 2012 — the event has grown into the largest chocolate fair in the country, Baum said.

“Chocolate makes people feel good,” Baum said. “Chocolate kind of taps into the inner psyche of people . . . you associate it with good times.”

From traditional treats like chocolate-covered apples to novelties such as chocolate-infused Brussels sprouts, the day was about testing flavor boundaries. Alejandra Colon, 37, of West Islip, said the chocolate bacon was among the quirkiest things she had tasted, but that overall, you “can’t do wrong with chocolate.”

Established local businesses and emerging artisanal vendors came to find new customers and showcase their wares.

Richard Penchuk, of Garden City-based company Chocolate Works, said he saw repeat customers at the expo every year. The day’s timing was apt, he said, with the peak holiday season and people shopping for gifts.

“It’s definitely sweet and fun,” said Penchuk, 47, who used to own a dental supply business. “You want some sort of temporary happiness.”

Edwige Oriol, of Valley Stream-based Chez Hedwige, specializes in gluten-free sweets such as a chocolate paleo brownie. Oriol said she was hoping the event would help her grow her business, and reach her goal of opening a storefront one day.

Other than meandering through chocolate-filled exhibit halls decorated with gleaming planes, families also enjoyed festive a cappella music, cooking demos, photos with Santa and more. The Amazing Kreskin, a popular mentalist on TV shows during the 1970s, entertained the audience with predictions. People also snapped photos with the vintage racing car featured in the 1968 film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Baldwin resident Kate Weglikowski, 30, a self-described chocolate enthusiast, said that ultimately, the expo was about nostalgic fun. “It’s reliving childhood memories with homemade chocolate,” Weglikowski added.

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