Carnival rides like this one from the 2019 ChocolateFest will remain an integral part of any festival organizers host on Memorial Day weekend, according to ChocolateFest President Bil Scherrer. However, the possibility of a festival in 2021 remains up in the air. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

ChocolateFest in 2021 likely hinges on permit approval

By Ed Nadolski

Editor in Chief

It’s a question that many in the Burlington area are anxious to answer: Will there be a ChocolateFest or similar festival on Memorial Day weekend in 2021?

At this point, however, the answer is nothing more than a definite maybe.

“We really don’t know,” admitted Bil Scherrer, who has been president of ChocolateFest for the past 23 years. “We’re kind of in limbo.”

That state of uncertainty – like so many other things in the past year – is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scherrer said Tuesday he and other festival organizers would like to see a community event of some kind to fill the long holiday weekend, but said it may be out of the organization’s hands.

What it comes down to, Scherrer said, is whether the City of Burlington will grant the festival a permit for a large-scale gathering.

With COVID cases trending down in recent weeks and the rollout of the vaccine picking up speed there are hopeful signs for a festival that would be held nearly four months from now.

However, what’s holding the effort back, according to Scherrer, is the fact that organizers will need an indication that the city will approve a permit for the festival in the near future to accommodate the extensive planning needed to pull it off.

City approval is key

Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty said that will be a challenge for members of the City Council, who have considered permits for festivals and other gatherings in the past year on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s a huge decision for them to make,” Hefty said Tuesday. “I wish I could say, ‘OK, no problem.’ I wish I could see what’s ahead.

The loss of a Memorial Day weekend festival for the second straight year would be another blow to the many non-profit groups and organizations that have come to rely on ChocolateFest as a major source of funds.

Scherrer, who met with other members of the ChocolateFest’s Executive Committee on Jan. 29 to discuss possibilities, said it’s likely the focus of the yearly Memorial Day weekend festival will shift away from its chocolate theme.

He said the change is in step with the city’s effort to rebrand itself as “The City of Trails,” and move away from “Chocolate City, U.S.A.”

“Maybe it’s time to regroup and come up with something different,” Scherrer said. “ChocolateFest will probably go away.”

However, he was quick to add the community is eager to retain an event of some type on Memorial Day weekend.

To read a full version of this story see the Feb. 11 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.