Posted by & filed under Travel Post Monthly.

by Jolenda Bauer

If last Valentine’s Day was a dud, plan early to make next year’s a memorable one. Instead of the usual box of chocolates, why not take in the annual Glendale Chocolate Affaire in Glendale, Arizona? Usually held in downtown historic Glendale around Valentine’s Day, this annual event is sure to please any palate.

The Glendale Chocolate Affaire was recently listed in the Top 100 Events in North America by The Washington Post, The Seattle Times and the American Bus Association. This event was also given the 2003 Governor’s Tourism Award for Best Special Event in Arizona. In 2007, it was even recognized as Festival of the Year by the International Special Event Society (ISES).

At the Chocolate Affaire you’ll find hundreds of vendors offering up goodies like chocolate-dipped strawberries to die for, goat’s-milk fudge and toffee. The vendors come from all across the nation to take part in the festivities.

One of the major sponsors is Cerreta Candy Company, located at 5345 W. Glendale Avenue, just minutes from downtown. They offer free shuttle buses during the festival. You can tour their factory, which has been family-owned and operated for many years. The factory goes through 3,000 pounds of chocolate a day and creates 70,000 pieces of candy. Visit them at http://www.cerreta.com, (623) 930-9000.

Another vendor I found quite inspiring was Brandini Toffee. These delectable treats are offered up by two young entrepreneurs. Leah Post and Brandon Weimer started the business in 2006 at the age of 15 to raise money for a school trip to Italy. They came from La Quinta, California to attend this festival.

There are magic ingredients in their confection, but they won’t give up the recipe—that’s a company secret! Leah and Brandon have shipped their toffee across the U.S., to Canada and to Europe, and the business is still going strong. They are now partnered with their parents, and saving for college tuition. A quarter-pound bag sells for $6 and a one-pound bag for $18. Their dedication, motivation, and entrepreneurial spirit are admirable! You can visit them at http://www.BrandiniToffee.com.

Another unique product I came across was goat’s-milk fudge. This delightful surprise was brought from The Ranch at Fossil Creek in Strawberry, Arizona. They run a working ranch and raise llamas and dairy goats, with tours and llama hikes from April through November. They sell artisan goat cheese and the goat’s-milk fudge through their Fossil Creek Creamery. They can be reached at goatfudge2004@yahoo.com.

The fun doesn’t stop there. So many treats are to be had, from syrups, fudge and chocolate-covered delights to romance… it’s the largest gathering of national romance authors in the Southwest. You can meet the authors and even attend free writing workshops given by experts. Entertainment abounds as well, with at least two stages featuring live music with local performers. A lively array of food and wine stalls can be found in the food court area.

You’ll also discover a Kids’ Zone with rock climbing, petting zoos, face painting, and train rides, and romantic carriage rides to take in the many offerings of the downtown area, including restaurants and antique shops.

For more of what this lovely city has to offer, visit http://www.VisitGlendale.com.

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