[caption id="attachment_33046" align="alignleft" width="322"]<img class=" wp-image-33046" src="https:\/\/mountainmedianews.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2018\/06\/The-Lewisburg-Chocolate-Festival-celebrates-12-years-of-sweet-success-1.jpg" alt="" width="322" height="483" \/> <br \/>(Photo by Connie Manchester)<br \/>Tamera Pence, owner of Bella The Corner Gourmet, plays the part of prospector with her golden chocolate nuggets while posing with Mayor John Manchester, who is dressed as Willy Wonka.[\/caption]\r\n<h1>In most communities, the month of April heralds the first daffodils of the season and the promise of warmer weather.<\/h1>\r\nIn Lewisburg, April means chocolate, lots of chocolate. Saturday, Apr. 14 marked the 12th Annual Lewisburg Chocolate Festival, and, once again, Lewisburg showed why it ranks on national lists as a top festival destination.\r\n\r\nThe weather, which can sometimes make or break the early-spring event, was sunny and warm, the sort of day that beckons locals and tourists alike to the downtown streets. Festival organizers estimate the crowd size at close to 5,000 people which meant tasting tickets sold out Saturday morning before the official start time of the event.\r\n\r\nIn total, 36,535 tasting tickets were sold, equating to $36,535 in ticket sales. Visitors wandered among the 37 tasting locations that stretched to every corner of historic downtown Lewisburg. Chocolate and confection companies, local businesses, and non-profits served 35,800 individual sweet treats.\r\n\r\nSome tastings, like the Wild Bean Coffee Shop\u2019s espresso brownies, have become popular mainstays of the festival while new businesses and festival partners ensure there is always something different to discover. Case in point, The Escape Hotel, a new boutique hotel located adjacent to The Asylum Restaurant offered dark chocolate covered lemonade buttercream truffles by Baylee\u2019s Best Chocolates. They quickly became a favorite of the day.\r\n\r\nThe Greenbrier Sporting Club\u2019s grand display and tasting station located inside Harmony Ridge Gallery is a popular attraction each year. Early Saturday morning, visitors lined up to experience the sights and tastes of the region\u2019s preeminent pastry chefs. Geodes, hollow crystalline rocks, were the theme of the Club\u2019s tasting station. The edible display was made entirely from sugar and chocolate, but many visitors thought the crystals were real.\r\n\r\nClay Elkins, director of food and beverage at the Greenbrier Sporting Club credits Pastry Chef Alyssa Mayo with the unique concept: \u201cChef Mayo is an artist and she has such vision for what is essentially edible art.\u201d\r\n\r\nAaron Maxwell, owner of Harmony Ridge Gallery, is eager to welcome the Greenbrier Sporting Club\u2019s team back each year. For him, it\u2019s a perfect fit. \u201cThe focus of our business has always been to represent the work of creative people. We love highlighting the Club\u2019s unique culinary artistry. It\u2019s a natural extension of what we\u2019re all about.\u201d\r\n\r\nLive chef demonstrations are another festival draw. This year, Chef Yvonne Ortiz-Galarza of Sanctuary Living Cuisine and Chef Amy Mills of Amy\u2019s Cakes and Cones each presented to full houses. Chair of the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival committee and executive director of the United Way of Greenbrier Valley, Erin Hurst says, \u201cWe were so proud to have two stellar female chefs this year.\u201d\r\n\r\nHurst adds, \u201cThere\u2019s so much more to enjoy at the festival than chocolate. We have live music in the Green Space, a free movie at the Lewis Theatre, street performances, and a children\u2019s read-aloud with a free book for each child. A person could literally not have one bite of chocolate and still enjoy a full day at the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival. Of course, we recommend trying the chocolate, too.\u201d\r\n\r\nLewisburg mayor John Manchester, an eternal good sport, dons a Willy Wonka costume each year, a fitting master of ceremonies for the chocolate affair.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe Lewisburg Chocolate Festival kicks off springtime and the busy tourist season for our town. It\u2019s a wonderful boost for our small businesses after the quiet, late-winter months and the funds raised benefit many local charities. This event continues to be a win all around,\u201d says Mayor Manchester.\r\n\r\nThe United Way of Greenbrier Valley was the charity partner of the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival for the 5th consecutive year. The non-profit netted $26,868.82 after event expenses were paid. Ticket sales are not the sole source of income for the festival. Sponsorship dollars totaling $9,153.98 offset many of the expenses, enabling the event to operate as a fundraiser.\r\n\r\nThe generous sponsors of the 2018 Lewisburg Chocolate Festival include:\r\n\r\nMedExpress, WVNS 59News, Ron Magruder, Shoney\u2019s, Kilcollin Dental, Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Employee Benefit Services, Chapman Technical Group, American Beer Company\/Runyon Family, U.S. Cellular, Fritz\u2019s Pharmacy & Wellness Center, High Country Boutique, Studio 40, Barnwood Living, Commercial Insurance, Cindy Lavender-Bowe, and Homestead Creamery.\r\n\r\nHurst also extends an enormous thank you to the members of the 2018 Festival Committee, adding, \u201cThe Chocolate Festival would be impossible without the hard work, support, and guidance of the planning committee.\u201d\r\n\r\nCommittee members include, in addition to Chair, Erin Hurst: Aaron Maxwell, Monica Maxwell, Sally Lane, Annamarie Visclosky, Cindy Lavender-Bowe, Jen Runyon, Missy VanBuren, Susan McCormack, Larry Levine, Barbara Phillips, John Manchester, Martha Hilton, and Mary Cole Deitz.\r\n\r\nFor more information about the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival, visit LewisburgChocolateFestival.com. Mark your calendar now for next year: Apr. 13, 2019. For more information on participation, sponsorship, and volunteer opportunities, contact Erin Hurst at firstname.lastname@example.org.