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The first-time chocolate festival will sweeten downtown Hillsboro this Friday.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Mindy Simmons, owner of Decadent Creations, is hosting a first-ever chocolate festival at her downtown Hillsboro bakery this Friday evening.Mindy Simmons loves chocolate.

Simmons, who runs Decadent Creations bakery and Collective Kitchen in downtown Hillsboro, is preparing for a special Valentine's Day-inspired event celebrating her favorite dessert.

For years, Simmons proffered her baked goodies as a vendor at ChocolateFest, the longtime Portland chocolate festival which closed its doors this year. A similar event at Jenkins Estate in Beaverton, called Chocolate Fantasy, also shuttered after nearly two decades at the sprawling park south of Hillsboro.

Without a dedicated chocolate festival on the Westside, Simmons said she knew what she had to do.

"I thought, 'Well, we'll do it ourselves,'" she said.

Dubbed "Chocopalooza," the inaugural event kicks off Friday, Feb. 9 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Decadent Creations, 173 N.E. Third Ave. in downtown Hillsboro. The event will feature live music, cake walks and chocolate goodies from two dozen shops and businesses, offering guests the chance to sample the wares of Portland-area chocolatiers, confectioners, bakers and artisans.

Simmons said she felt compelled to pick up the torch and carry on the festivals.

"People love chocolate more than other foods. The only other thing people are this crazy for is bacon," she said, laughing. "Chocolate is very sensual and romantic. It's exciting and exotic."

ChocolateFest was held at the World Forestry Center in Portland for years, but it moved to the Oregon Convention Center after outgrowing its space. Simmons said the event lost something when it moved to the larger, more commercial space.

Chocolate is about warmth and intimacy, she said, unlike the cold, sprawling convention center.

"It was a lot less romantic," Simmons said.

Simmons hopes to draw a few hundred people to the one-day event, and she says she's happy for the event to start small.

Like wine, chocolate can come in many different forms, she said, and has been a staple of bakers for years.

"There can be so much depth, depending on where the chocolate is from, and it can also be a blank slate for bakers to play with," Simmons said.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Chocopalooza will feature plenty of vendors with love on the brain, selling homemade stuffed animals, flowers and art.

There's something about chocolate, Simmons said. It excites people in a way most other foods don't.

"Chocolate is like an old friend when you're having a bad day," Simmons said. "When the kids are driving you nuts and screaming, you can just enjoy a piece of chocolate for a second.

"You know what it's like? It's like that old Simon & Garfunkel song — 'Hello darkness, my old friend,'" Simmons added. "That's chocolate, for me. It's a friend."

Chocopalooza runs from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9 at Decadent Creations. Tickets are $5 and available at DecadentCreations.com, or at the door.STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The event will feature plenty of chocolate, such as this chocolate chess pie, as well as Valentine's Day goodies.



By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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