- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

Forget the guilt trip. At the Chocolate Lovers Festival to be held this weekend in Old Town Fairfax, no one will need to feel bad about indulging in another piece of chocolate.
Chocolate-scented teddy bears, chocolate-chip pancakes, sculptures and cakes crafted from chocolate may sound like a scene from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," but it is reality, if just for two days.
"First-time visitors can expect to see chocolate wherever they go," says Claire Luke, chairman of the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. "This is a weekend when moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas bring their children or grandchildren. People can expect all types of excitement and fun. Going to the festival will be a fun thing to do."
The Chocolate Lovers Festival, held each year in early February, is a weekend-long chocolate celebration that features activities for every member of the family. It was developed in 1992 to attract visitors to the Old Town area of Fairfax City and encourage community participation. The first festival drew about 1,500 visitors, a figure that by last year had grown to more than 8,500.
"We needed a festival in the winter, and someone thought about Valentine's Day," Ms. Luke says. "That's where the idea of involving chocolate came from, and everybody loves chocolate."
The festival starts off Saturday morning with a Kiwanis pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. Both regular and chocolate-chip pancakes will be served. Events geared toward younger visitors include "Chocolate-Covered Fairy Tales" (classics retold with a chocolate twist), a puppet theater, circus acrobatics, a magician and an exhibit called "The History of Chocolate." Children also can learn how courts of law work by attending "The Chocolate Caper," a mock trial held by the Fairfax Bar Association.
Taste of Chocolate features hundreds of types of chocolates and goodies to sample. Health-conscious chocoholics who have made New Year's resolutions to swear off the stuff should attend Joshua Bloom's lecture "Candy Is Dandy: the Health Benefits of Chocolate" so they won't feel so bad when they break their resolutions.
"The Chocolate Challenge," which takes place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is an exhibit of magnificent chocolate sculptures and cakes created by area chefs. The edible masterpieces will be auctioned, and the proceeds will go to local charities.
"Last year's exhibition objects included a chessboard with chess players made out of dark chocolate, and previous years have featured a six-foot chocolate mermaid," Ms. Luke says about what to expect from the chocolate arts extravaganza.
The Chocolate Lovers Festival Committee has chosen this year to donate proceeds to FACETS (Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services), a nonprofit organization that provides emergency intervention and educational programs for homeless and low-income people in Fairfax City and Fairfax County.
The chocolate festivities will end Sunday evening with the Chocolate Challenge Dinner, at which a four-course meal will be served at the five-star restaurant, Bailiwick Inn. Reservations are required and should be made at 703/591-2450.

WHAT: The Chocolate Lovers Festival
WHERE: Old Town Fairfax
WHEN: Feb. 1 and 2, starting at 8 a.m.
TICKETS: Some events require a small fee; other events are free.
INFORMATION: 703/293-7120 or www.chocolatefestival.net

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