Oregon Chocolate Festival kicks off with sweet start

Ashland, Ore. — The Oregon Chocolate Festival is kicking off Friday night in Ashland. The weekend-long event is dedicated to the sweet treat, with a number of events around the Rogue Valley.

“Chocolate is not just Snickers, Hershey bar, it’s really so much more,” event organizer Karolina Lavagnino said.

That’s the goal of 43 vendors, working to prove how chocolate can be transformed with a variety of different flavors and accents. Chocolatiers like Jeff Shepherd with Lillie Belle Farms say it’s an opportunity to bring their best to the table.

“It’s just a great thing,” Shepherd said. “Karolina, who’s run this thing for years just brings all kinds of chocolatiers from all over the place, and then we show it off.”

Lavagnino has been running the show for 14 years now. She says each year, it gets a little bigger, and more booths are needed.

“It’s thrilling to see new vendors because they’ve heard about our fun and exciting festival and they want to participate so it just always warms my heart,” Lavagnino said.

Vendors are set up all weekend at the Ashland Hills Hotel for the expo, but there’s a lot of other events going on as well.

“We have chef demos, so local chefs will be presenting different recipes that are their favorite with chocolate, and so that’s a great opportunity to watch them, then grab the recipe, take it home, and experiment,” Lavagnino said.

Attendees can also feel good about all the chocolate tasting; a portion of every entry fee is going to a good cause.

“We support the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, with ten percent of proceeds from the ticket sales,”┬áLavagnino said. “So I’m hoping the more people come, the more that we can give to the Medford NICU.”

A number of classes and other events are already sold out. For more information, click here.

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