Chocolate Festival Set For Lei Day

February 19, 2020, 1:25 PM HST (Updated February 19, 2020, 1:25 PM)
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Flourless Chocolate Coffee Brulee at the Big Island Chocolate Festival on April 27, 2019. PC: Karen Rose

This year, Lei Day is for chocolate.

The 9th Big Island Chocolate Festival is set for May 1 and May 2, 2020, with the festive theme, Choco-Lei Day. Proceeds from the 2020 festival, which is sporting a new colorful logo, will benefit seven local nonprofits.

The two-day chocolate extravaganza is headquartered from The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Indulge in the alluring, rich taste of chocolate — in both its sweet and savory forms — while participating in delicious, fun and informative chocolate-themed activities.

Activities for the eco-tourism festival include guided cacao plantation tours, several agriculture-themed and culinary seminars, plus a college culinary competition — all are open to the public.

The festival gala — featuring savory and sweet food booths, unlimited wine and beer pours, silent auction, dancing, chocolate fountain and more — is 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 2. Culinary booths will be judged on their depiction of the 2020 theme and attendees are encouraged to wear lei.

“Everyone loves the Hawai‘i tradition of giving and receiving lei,” says Kona Cacao Association President Farsheed Bonakdar. “In honor of Lei Day, we’re hoping this year’s culinary stations and attendees will be festooned in all types of colorful and original garlands.”

Presented by the Kona Cacao Association (KCA), festival proceeds annually benefit a variety of local nonprofits. Last year’s festival awarded $18,000 to community educational organizations. The 2020 beneficiaries include the culinary programs at Hawai‘i Community College Palamanui, Hawai‘i Island High Schools and Maui Community College, plus Hawai‘i Institute of Pacific Agriculture, Friends of the NELHA, Big Island Music & Arts Academy and Kona Dance & Performing Arts.

More than 600 guests attended the two-day festival in 2019, and 2020 is expected to be another sell-out affair. A limited amount of VIP ($129) gala tickets are on sale now; general admission is $89. Also available are three different overnight room packages, including a Two-Night Chocolate Infusion Weekender. All room packages include a pair of tickets to the Saturday evening gala.

Details can be found at https://bigislandchocolatefestival.com/tickets/. Support provided by Hawai‘i Tourism through the Community Enrichment Program.

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