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Ghirardelli event draws thousands
Ghirardellis Julia Vrias makes a hot fudge sundae as part of the first annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Jubilee Saturday in Lathrop. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The 7-year-old Dennis the Menace look-alike — complete with cowlick — had just knocked over two rubber ducks with three tosses of a bean bag.

He had a jubilant look on his face until he saw his prize — a small pack of crayons. Had he hit one or missed he would have gotten chocolate. Three ducks down was the big pay day — a small package of Ghirardelli Squares.

Sensing his disappointment, the volunteer helping run the free game asked a stupid question: “Would you rather have crayons or chocolate?”

The kid looked at the adult as if he had a hole in his head before quietly muttering chocolate.

When he was handed two individual squares of Ghirardelli Chocolate with mint his face broke out with a grin that would put the Cheshire Cat to shame.

“Sweet!” he yelled as his ran off clutching the chocolate as if it were a ticket to the Wonka chocolate factory.

A lot of people agreed with the kid as more than 5,000 people stopped by the first annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Jubilee on Saturday at the firm’s massive Latghrop distribution center that includes a factory store on Harlan Road along Interstate 5.

 Steady crowds filled the chocolate tasting tent where chocolate lovers — for $20 a ticket — were able to savor 15 tastings of chocolate ranging from the famous Ghirardelli squares to vendors offering everything from chocolate in cakes to blueberries covered in cholate and plenty of things in between.

Lines in the outlet store were a steady 20 to 30 deep throughout the day.

Outside besides the tasting tent there were free children’s games, entertainment, and a Ghirardelli sundae eating contest, bounce houses, and more.

Ghirardelli staff as well as supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Manteca-Lathrop provided the volunteer manpower. A portion of the ticket sales will help support the club that has more than 1,700 members.

The distribution center reflects the new Lathrop way of doing business that weds major firms with distribution needs such as Home Depot along with stalwart Bay Area firms such as Ghirardelli and Tesla Motors to the community’s employment foundation provided by firms such as Simplot, California Natural Products, and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.