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DMV Chocolate and Coffee Festival will make mouthwatering return this October

(Updated 2:45 p.m.) Fairfax County residents will finally get the chance to satisfy their sweet-tooth cravings this fall.

For the second year in a row, the DMV Chocolate and Coffee Festival is returning to Dulles Expo Center (4320 Chantilly Shopping Center) on Oct. 7 and 8.

Tickets for the event are currently on sale for 50% off until 11:59 p.m. on June 30. With the discounted rates, general admission tickets start at $8.00, and VIP tickets are priced at $13.50.

With ambitious plans to expand from its first run, this year’s festival will be transitioning from the Dulles Expo Center’s North Hall to the South Hall, giving vendors an additional 70,000 square feet — roughly three times as much space as last year, says John Hill, half of the husband-wife duo behind the festival.

John, and his wife Lindsay, hope the increased space will accommodate the influx of visitors to Dulles Expo Center after last year’s festival hit max capacity at over 8,000 people, according to a press release.

To ensure the thousands of visitors projected to attend have plenty to see, the festival will feature over 100 different vendors from around D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Vendor applications are still being accepted in a search for what John described as the “most unique” businesses.

Many small businesses based locally in the Fairfax County area will appear in hopes of finding lifelong customers. Among the list are Weird Brothers Coffee, Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates, Le Papiyon Chocolatier, Dano’s Granola and River-Sea Chocolates.

“What we’ve heard from our vendors is that by coming out to this event, they’re able to reach people that have never heard of them before,” John said. “Like River-Sea is right there next to the center, but they’ve had new customers come in their doors because they found them at the Chocolate Coffee Festival, and now they’ve learned that there’s a storefront location.”

Other interactive additions slated for the festival include educational classes, chocolate and coffee mascots for photo opportunities, and a kids’ craft table. Carrying over from last year, attendees will also get access to “tons and tons and tons of free samples,” John says.

The festival has again partnered with the Christian radio station WGTS 91.9, with a portion of every ticket sale being donated back to the organization.

Festival guests are encouraged to bring canned food donations to the WGTS 9.19 tent to support Food for Others, a nonprofit food bank. Donors will have their names entered into a prize drawing and get a chance to win an assortment of artisan goods donated by participating vendors.

Giving back through supporting local communities and small businesses is ultimately what fuels the Hills’ passion for hosting events like the DMV Chocolate and Coffee Festival.

“We really care a lot about small business, which is why we got involved in this — it’s to help other businesses grow,” John said. “That’s an exciting, fun thing for us, just to help people with great ideas share their ideas with the world.”

The couple became inspired to lead the festival after helping a friend tour the country to promote their small business and seeing a similar event on the West Coast.

“[The tour] opened open our eyes to the world of events and how beneficial events can be helping small businesses get attention for their products and their brand and tell their story,” John said. “It’s a lot easier to tell your story face-to-face with an attendee than through the internet or email.”

The Hills transported the chocolate and coffee festival from across the country to Chantilly “so that county residents can get the closest, best experience of having [a DMV-region event] right in their backyard,” John said.

This fall marks the Hills’ second year of running the DMV Chocolate and Coffee Festival, and they have no plans to make it their last.

“When we see those vendors selling out of product as most of our vendors did last year, it just like makes us feel like, ‘Okay, we’re doing the right thing, we’re helping these people,'” Lindsay said. “And that’s why we want to keep doing the event.”

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