Chocolate and Candy Festival

Thomas Wallace, 6, of Bel Air, enjoys a lollipop at the Chocolate and Candy Festival at Bel Air Reckord Armory Saturday, March 1. (Photo by Steve Ruark / March 1, 2014)

Scott Walker started his term of service as executive director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance focused on the annual Chocolate and Candy Festival, and he ends his term four-and-a-half years later with the festival.

"This is my first event, and it'll be my last event, so I've completed the circle," he joked Saturday as he looked over the crowd of people enjoying the 13th annual Chocolate and Candy Festival at the Bel Air Reckord Armory.

He noted his first meeting when he started in November 2009 was related to the festival.

"We're going to end up in the 1,800 to 2,000 range for sure," he said as an estimate for Saturday's attendance.

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"It's the last hour and a half and we still have a good flow going," Walker said around 1:30 p.m.

His last day with the alliance will be April 1; he will then go to work as director of development and training for MaGerks Pub & Grill.

The alliance is a non-profit organization responsible for promoting events and businesses in downtown Bel Air; the Chocolate and Candy Festival is one of its major events each year, along with the summer Maryland State BBQ Bash and First Fridays.

"All we do is turn around and reinvest it into promoting downtown Bel Air," Walker said of funds raised from events such as the chocolate festival.

Walker praised his staff, board members and Bel Air business owners for their support of the downtown and noted many new businesses have arrived during the past four years despite the economic downturn.

"We've weathered the storm and been able to attract a lot of new businesses to our downtown, which I think says a lot for our community," he said.

The festival

Festival attendees paid $5 at the door and received four free sample tickets. Children could decorate white paper bags at a table marked with a sign reading "Candy Cane Lane," and designate them as their candy bags.

"He's just been constantly putting [samples] in there, so he's been having a lot of fun," Gina Sabo, of Abingdon, said of her 4-year-old son, Danny, and his candy bag.

Sabo, her husband, Jonathan, and Danny were attending their first Chocolate and Candy Festival Saturday.

Jonathan said he heard about it on the news and "thought it would make a nice family outing."

"I didn't realize there were this many chocolatiers and confectioners in the area, so it's kind of eye opening," he said.

Sixteen vendors hailing from the Baltimore metropolitan area offered a variety of sweet treats, including chocolate, candy, Italian ice, ice cream and cupcakes.

Some vendors are veterans of the festival and others were making their first appearance Saturday.

Mark Coulbourne, owner of A Dream of Chocolate of Parkville, said the festival "exceeded our expectations."

"Absolutely, I would certainly do it again," he said when asked if he planned to return next year.. "[It is] a very nice crowd."