Bel Air Chocolate Festival

Folks wander through the many vendors lining the hall of the Bel Air Armory during last year's Bel Air Chocolate and Candy Festival. This year's festival is Saturday. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / March 3, 2012)

Local residents and visitors can experience a sweet Saturday in downtown Bel Air, as they sample local businesses' chocolate and other confections during the 12th annual Chocolate & Candy Festival.

The Festival, which is put on by the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Bel Air Armory, at 37 N. Main St.

Festival-goers can sample chocolates, baked treats such as cakes and cupcakes, candies, gourmet beverages, even kettle corn, from businesses that hail from throughout the county seat and surrounding areas.

Scott Walker, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, calls the Festival "a nice little kickoff to spring."

Admission to the event is $5 per person, which comes with four free sample tickets that can be used to sample the various merchants' goods – more sample tickets can be purchased at a rate of $3 for three tickets, according to a news release from the Downtown Alliance.

Children younger than age 6 are admitted free, and each child younger than 6 admitted gets two free sample tickets.

The Bel Air Athletic Club and APG Federal Credit Union are sponsoring a Children's Craft & Activity Area, where children can make crafts, or participate in activities bearing the theme of the late beloved children's author, Dr. Seuss.

The birthday of Dr. Seuss – the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel – falls on Saturday, hence the Dr. Seuss theme at Saturday's event.

"We're just sprinkling in some Dr. Seuss," Walker explained. "It's a nice add-on for a kid-friendly event, which just happens to be Dr. Seuss' Birthday."

The Dr. Seuss theme came in play already this past Friday, during one of two events held as part of the overall Chocolate & Candy Festival celebration.

A showing of the 2012 animated film "The Lorax" – the most recent filmed version of Seuss' environmental tale of a furry creature named the Lorax who fights to protect the plants and creatures of his world from rampant industrialization – took place Friday evening at the Armory for the second annual Chocolate & Candy Festival Movie Night.

Teachers from the Bel Air North Montessori School also read Dr. Seuss stories to children during the event.

Downtown shops also stayed open late Friday to accommodate visitors participating in the first annual Chocolate & Art Walk. Participants could sample some of the treats which will be offered Saturday, and visit with local artists, whose works were on display in the various downtown businesses.

"One of our goals in 2013 is to really make more of a connection with the local arts community," Walker stated in the news release. "We are committed to including the arts into as many of our events as possible."

The arts will also feature into the unveiling of three "Hearts of Harford" sculptures before the Festival kicks off Saturday.

The unveiling will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of the Armory.

The sculptures are part of the "Hearts of Harford" public art project put on by the Downtown Alliance and the Town of Bel Air beginning late last year – the name is inspired by Bel Air's slogan, "The Heart of Harford."

Five area businesses, including People's Bank, Katzen Eye Group, WSMT Insurance, Gold Medal Physical Therapy and Rosedale Federal, have sponsored individual artists in their creations of the sculpture, based on a design by area artist and town Cultural Arts Commission member Adrienne DeRan.

The People's Bank, Katzen Eye Group and Gold Medal Physical Therapy Heart sculptures will be unveiled Saturday morning.

For more information, call the Downtown Alliance at 443-823-1797 or visit http://www.downtownbelair.com.