Illustration by Kiri Rasmussen.
Illustration by Kiri Rasmussen.

There are very few times in your life when you can eat a gluttonous amount of sweets and not feel guilty about it.

The third annual Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival may just be one of those times. On Sunday, Jan. 24, from 1 to 5 p.m., students and locals are encouraged to “Indulge in a Worthy Cause,” as headlined in a flyer for the event. Admission is free, but tasting is not. Chocolate lovers can buy tickets for tastings, ranging from $5 to $20.

“How many times can you contribute to a good cause and eat chocolate at the same time?” mused Bonita Sebastian, publicity chair for the Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival and first vice president of the UC Santa Cruz Women’s Club.

Sunday’s events are designed to raise money for re-entry students’ scholarships.

“Re-entry students are students returning to college after having a break in higher education for some particular reason,” said Lorraine Margon, chair of the event and Women’s Club board member. “They can be the first in the family to go to college, or they can be single parents [for example].”

Margon founded the chocolate festival in 2008 at the suggestion of another board member while brainstorming for more ways to fund the club’s re-entry student scholarships.

“It has always been a special goal of the club to raise scholarships — we’ve been raising re-entry scholarships for students for over 30 years,” she said.

Now that it is entering its third year, the chocolate festival has seen exceptional growth and success.

“It turned out to be our top fundraiser,” Margon said. “We’ve doubled the amount of money raised every year.”

Both Sebastian and Margon agree that from the onset, the turnout has been phenomenal.

“We had 17 chocolate vendors the first year. We had to set up all the tables and chairs ourselves and pray that someone would come,” Sebastian said. “About half an hour after it opened we couldn’t move. We had 600 attendees. And later we thought, ‘We better have a bigger space.’”

And a bigger space they got. The second Chocolate Festival in 2009 moved locations from the Attic to the Boardwalk’s Cocoanut Grove to accommodate more people. The numbers grew even more, attracting 30 vendors and 1,600 attendees.

But the number of vendors and attendees isn’t the only thing that grew. The amount of money the club raised for its scholarships rose from $8,400 to $22,000.

The UCSC Women’s Club re-entry student scholarships fill a void that other scholarships cannot cover.

“They don’t just go to tuition — they can go to laptops and childcare and other expenses that other scholarships don’t apply to,” Margon said.

Though they come from the Women’s Club, the scholarships are not limited to women. Out of last year’s 17 scholarship award recipients, six were men.