NORWALK, Conn. -- The fish, sea creatures and mammals played second fiddle to the sights, sounds and tastes of the Chocolate World Expo held Sunday afternoon at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
Walking through the aquarium was difficult as crowds of people from all over Fairfield County came to enjoy the chocolate, baked goods and specialty foods spread out by the 35 food vendors who took over the building.
For the second year in a row, the aquarium hosted the Chocolate World Expo, which filled the entire building.
It’s a huge event for the Maritime Aquarium, said Dave Sigworth, its publicist. The event offers visitors the opportunity to rediscover what the aquarium has to offer. “Over 5,000 people came last year -- I’m sure it will be more this year,” he said.
This year, the event had some extras, including mentalist Marc Salem and cooking demonstrations from chef Barret Beyer from Season 11 of "Hell's Kitchen" and Bacon Bites executive chef Lawrence Rosenberg. But event producer Marvin Baum said the event's focus is on helping local businesses get their products out to a wider audience.
“It’s tough being a small business,” Baum said. For small food businesses to attend and hand out samples gives them a new opportunity for selling their product to someone who might not have known about them before.
Corey Tolkin, owner of Unbakeables, which started in Weston but is now in Norwalk, said that is one of the main reasons his business takes part in expos such as Chocolate World.
Some of the people who checked out the Unbakeables items next to the horseshore crabs are patrons at farmers markets, Tolkin said. But at an event like Chocolate World, visitors will say “that’s my favorite” and get the opportunity to try more of their products.
Getting to show off the products to a wider audience was one of the reasons Ola! Granola owner Dina Houser of Redding started to participate in Baum's expos.
But “to have the aquarium as our backdrop and especially with the sea turtles is really special,” said Houser.