An Eastern Massachusetts Chocolate Festival With a Cause

Spring has officially sprung, along with chocolate cravings, in Eastern Massachusetts.

Last weekend, Nashoba Valley Technical High School hosted the St. Mark's Chocolate Festival, a benefit for local food pantries. For a day, the school transformed itself into a choclate-lover's haven, complete with festive decorations and an elaborate all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. The event was $12 for adults and $6 for children.

"There are so many people, you feel like you should have Town Meeting while you’re here," said Bill Donohue, the event's organizer for eight successive years.

The benefit, which was postponed from its traditional Valentine's Day date due to snow, saw its attendance decline from past years. But those who attended had their share of fun -- and their fill of chocolate -- while supporting those in the area suffering from hunger.

"The spirit of the event and the good will is here and the restaurants have been very supportive. It is a win-win situation for them. It is for a good cause," Donohue said.

Donohue said the new venue at Nashoba Valley Technical H.S. was welcoming and the warm spring sunshine brightened everyone's spirits. Although there was some confusion with a number of guests showing up at the traditional site, Westford Academy.

"Some of the hard-core chocolate addicts were in the parking lot here, waiting for it to open," Donohue said.

In addition to abundant snacking, visitors were encouraged to try their hand at judging the handmade chocolate confections. A handbook provided at the door gave judges some guidelines for describing the many chocolate flavors, from rich to bittersweet to tart. As for the coveted First Place honor, it went to the Stage Coach Inn of Groton, Mass., and its "Mozart Cake," painstakingly shaped into, yes, a chocolate piano.

In the end, every participant went home a winner (albeit a tad heavier). By the end of the event afternoon, the baking pans were scraped clean and satisfied chocoholics departed in a state of contentment. All in the name of a good cause. What could be better?

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