Chocolate lovers will unite for charity on Sunday at the 14th annual Chocolate Festival, a fundraiser benefiting Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic.
The festival will be held at Embassy Suites Hot Springs -- Hotel & Spa, 400 Convention Blvd., from 1-3 p.m. Sunday.
The festival is presented on Super Bowl Sunday each year and features thousands of sweet treats provided by local restaurants and organizations. Teams are ranked in three categories: Best of Show, Best Taste, and People's Choice.
"Fat Bottomed Girls won Best Taste last year so they'll be back defending their title this year," said CCMC's executive director and festival coordinator, Lynn Blankenship. "The People's Choice last year was National Park College, their hospitality department, and they will also be back defending their first-place position. They shared that position last year with Fat Bottomed Girls, so they will both be there to try to hold their spot."
Other vendors including First Baptist Church, Malvern National Bank, and Pour Some Sugar On Me Sweet Shoppe will participate in this year's festival. Red Light Roastery will have a table set up, not to serve chocolate, but coffee.
"Coffee just goes so well with chocolate," Blankenship said.
A group of judges will choose three winners in the Best Taste and Best of Show categories, and the People's Choice award winner be decided on by the festivalgoers.
Attendees will also have an opportunity to bid on more than 100 silent auction items from 1-2:30 p.m.
"We have some very generous retailers here in town that have donated gift certificates and actual items," Blankenship said.
Some of the silent auction items include paintings and photographs by local artists, gift baskets from local retailers including Dillard's, Bubba Brew's Sports Pub & Grill, Starbucks and Papa Murphy's Pizza, a chocolate pearl necklace from Adrienne Kahn Fine Jewelry, a 60-minute aromatherapy massage at Absolute Serenity, a full day boat rental from Hot Springs Marina, tickets to the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic, and a family membership at YMCA.
The festival will also feature a live auction for which one of the items will be a four-hour sailboat cruise for four people on Lake Ouachita.
Entertainment will be provided by the Fun City Chorus and Ken Goodman will serve as emcee.
"It will be a lively event, and of course the chocolate is the star of the show," Blankenship said.
She added that proceeds from the event will go toward CCMC's general operating expenses, including the medical clinic and the organization's social services programs.
"We have a medical clinic here where we treat individuals who don't have health insurance. (Proceeds) also help support the social services program we have, and that kind of falls into two categories: one is case management for immediate and long-term needs, and also, addressing that long-term case management, we have a program called Getting Ahead, and that's kind of a classroom curriculum where individuals go through a 16-week session and they do a process of self-discovery where they lay out their individual resources and their access to community resources and they come out with a new future story," Blankenship said.
She said festival ticket sales were "kind of laid back" this year up until this week.
"It has gone crazy this past week," she added.
Last year's festival attracted just over 700 people, and Blankenship said that this year's expected attendance number was at least 600 as of Thursday.
Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased from Embassy Suites or CCMC, or online at http://www.eventbrite.com.Local on 02/02/2018