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Third annual Oregon Chocolate Festival

Chocolate lovers mark your calendars, the third annual Oregon Chocolate Festival is back. The scrumptious event will take place March 3-4 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Ashland Springs Hotel located in the heart of downtown Ashland.

A $15 ticket is a two-day pass to chocolate paradise. Tastings of an array of goods created by more than 15 Oregon chocolatiers will include chocolate bars, truffles, and chocolate-covered famous Oregon pears, hazelnuts, berries as well as toffees, biscotti and local fudge. People are invited to try such unusual combinations as Ke Kau Chocolatier's "El Chipotle" or "Thai Curry" spiced chocolates or the Be-Bop "Chocolate Peppermint Crush" biscotti.

Internationally acclaimed Rogue Creamery will present their delightful chocolate-infused cheddar cheese; and Rogue Ales will be there with incredible chocolate stout. How about an ice cream float with all natural BJ's chocolate gelato and vanilla-flavored Romano's Italian Soda.

The festival offers chocolate and wine pairing events both in house and at local wineries. What better way to get your daily amount of antioxidants than red wine and dark chocolate.

Take a break from all that chocolate munching and participate in one of many informative seminars at the hotel, such as "Nutritious values of chocolate", "Use of chocolate in cosmetology" or "The art of chocolate" where chocolatier Jeff Shepherd will paint on chocolate canvases and talk about his exciting artworks.

If you prefer more hands on experience, sign up for a cooking class. Or for those who trust more professional chefs, local restaurants, including Larks-Home Kitchen Cuisine at the Ashland Springs Hotel, will offer great specials, and we are not talking only about desserts! Specials also will be offered at Mix &

Ashland's new candy shop, located on the plaza.

You can also come to Ashland a day early for the First Friday Art Walk organized by the Ashland Gallery Association. This time the theme will be"&

166; surprise, surprise "chocolate!"

After had chocolate and wine, now it is time to relax. Stop by the Waterstone Spa and enjoy one of many rejuvenating specials, such as a chocolate body scrub.

On Sunday, take a break from all these chocolate-obsessed people and drive a few miles south to Mt. Ashland. "The White Chocolate on the Mountain" weekend special will offer you more than just regular skiing, snowboarding and fun in the snow. During the festival visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Simply mention "chocolate festival" and to receive a 50 percent discount for plays March 2-4.

For those who want to take home more than sweet memories and boxes of chocolate festival participants have an opportunity to purchase all of the featured chocolate products, wines, cheeses, beer as well as recipe books, festival T-shirts, and other chocolate themed goods. Don't be selfish, share unforgettable Oregon Chocolate Festival memorabilia with your family and friends back home.

Even better: stay ahead of the game and purchase tickets to the Oregon Chocolate Festival and bring your family and friends. A ticket to the festival or a gift certificate for an overnight package is the best Valentine's Day gift.

The overnight package starts at $149 and includes accommodations for two in one of our beautifully appointed rooms, breakfast, parking, two festival tickets and a welcome in-room chocolate treat upon arrival. Due to a limited number of rooms at the Ashland Springs Hotel, early reservations are recommended.

Tickets are only $15 for both days and cover all events scheduled at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Ten percent of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the Ashland Food Bank.