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Sweet weekend on tap in Bel Air with pop-up shops, brew, wine and chocolate tour

Sweet weekend on tap in Bel Air with pop-up shops, brew, wine and chocolate tour
Organizers of the Bel Air Chocolate and Candy Festival say the event outgrew its home at the Bel Air Armory and has been replaced by two downtown events this weekend: Sweets on the Streets on Saturday and a Chocolate, Brew and Wine Tour on Sunday. (AEGIS FILE PHOTO / Baltimore Sun)

It may not be the Chocolate Festival, but a sweet weekend of events is planned in downtown Bel Air on Saturday and Sunday.

The annual Chocolate and Candy Festival has gotten too big for the Bel Air Armory, its home since it began 15 years ago, according to the sponsoring organization.

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"The festival was almost too big for our britches," Christine McPherson, executive director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, which hosted the festival, said. "We couldn't host that type of event."

So instead of a one-day event, the festival has evolved into two events this weekend in downtown Bel Air: Sweets on the Streets on Saturday and the Chocolate, Brew and Wine Tour on Sunday.

"The main goal is we want to see people enjoy downtown Bel Air, taking in the sites, tasting what Bel Air has to offer, literally and figuratively, from our great restaurants and retailers," Roman Davidyuk, marketing director for the Downtown Alliance, said.

Sweets on the Streets is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rather than be concentrated in once space, more than 20 vendors – many of whom participated in the Chocolate Festival – will be scattered in "pop-up shops" around 13 locations in downtown.

Many of the pop-ups will be hosted by businesses that complement them, Davidyuk said.

These are small businesses that have unique products to offer, whether it be food, clothing or art, Davidyuk said. They will be setting up in existing retailers or in vacant spaces throughout the downtown.

"The idea is to give small businesses the opportunity to 'pop up' for the day, weekend, perhaps the season," McPherson said.

The vendors will feature "all kinds of sweets," Davidyuk said. "Whether it's chocolate, something literally sweet, or others, like 'Oh, this is really cool.'"

Vendors participating include Taken, Natasha's Just Brittle, Cat's Vintage Corner, Coloring Black Rock, Randalia Bee Hives, Dove Chocolate Discoveries/Solutionz Gourmet, GlamourHolic Curbside Fashion Truck, Kelly's Keepsakes, Le MONADE, Breezy Hill Woodwerks, Dessert at Jessica's, Salazon Chocolate Co., Manderbug Creations, Old, New & a Riverview, Mini's Pastries & Confections, Taste This Cake, Mosaic Art, Barks and Beads Boutique, North East Chocolates, Wilde 4 Art, Love at First Kiss and Kona Ice of Bel Air.

"The idea is to bring out the family to enjoy downtown Bel Air, grab lunch, visit shops, create an experience for a day in downtown," McPherson said. "It also gives up and coming businesses the opportunity to look at the vibrancy, look at vacant spaces and how they could use those vacant spaces."

This will be the second year for the Chocolate, Brew and Wine Tour that runs from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday at seven downtown restaurants, including Looney's Pub, MaGerk's Pub, Sean Bolan's Irish Pub, Main Street Tower, Black Eyed Suzie's, Bel Air Liquors and Independent Brewing Co., each of which will give tour particpants a free drink.

Four choclatiers - La Cakerie, Flavor Cupcakery, Sunny Day Cafe and Coffee Coffee will provide the sweets - each at a different restaurant.

Tickets for the tour, a "pub crawl-type event," McPherson said, are $45 and can be purchased online at www.belairmaryland.org. Tickets are available only to people 21 and older.

Last year's event sold out, so people are encouraged to get their tickets early. Less than 40 tickets remained Thursday afternoon.

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