The festival is based at the Ashland Springs Hotel, but organizers have scheduled events throughout downtown, in the historic Railroad District along A Street and even out at the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

Organizers of the Sixth Annual Oregon Chocolate Festival in Ashland are working to spread the wealth — and the chocolate — all around town.

The festival is based at the Ashland Springs Hotel, but organizers have scheduled events throughout downtown, in the historic Railroad District along A Street and even out at the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum. The festival runs next weekend from March 5 through March 7.

Time-honored institutions like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year — are taking part, as well as start-up businesses like Noble Coffee Roasting and Deux Chats bakery.

Just mention the word "chocolate" and you can get a 50 percent discount on tickets to all OSF plays staged next weekend.

Noble Coffee Roasting, which opened in 2009 at 281 Fourth St., is hosting a free coffee education session from 7 to 8:30 a.m. on March 7. Visitors can tour the roasting facility, learn about the journey of coffee from bean to cup and taste a variety of coffees from around the world. Learning more about coffee during a chocolate festival is a natural fit since both products originate from beans, and — not coincidentally — pair so well together.

Demand has been so strong for a Deux Chats chocolate baguette baking class scheduled for March 6 that there's a waiting list of people hoping to get in.

Like Noble Coffee Roasting, Deux Chats bakery is a relative newcomer, having opened its wholesale and retail bakery at 222 A St. in 2008. Both businesses took a gamble by opening during tough economic times.

Deux Chats Co-owner Garrette Furuichi said the bakery was invited to participate in the annual chocolate festival beginning last year. The bakery brought its delectable chocolate baguette to the 2009 festival and walked away with an award for non-traditional innovative use of chocolate.

Furuichi said he's pleased with how organizers continue to spread events across town.

"I think it's great. It gets people to different venues around town. Showcasing ScienceWorks and other businesses is a great idea," he said. "The chocolate festival helps in developing a new reason for people to come to Ashland — and to see some great plays. I'm happy with how it's being marketed."

Furuichi also emphasized that the chocolate festival isn't just for out-of-town tourists.

"We're embracing the involvement of as many local people as possible," he said.

While some cultural and culinary events in Ashland aren't particularly family-friendly, chocolate festival organizers haven't forgotten that parents and kids like to be included in the fun.

At ScienceWorks, 1500 E. Main St., people of all ages can learn about the history and cultural significance of chocolate, find out how it's made, learn about animals from chocolate-producing regions and (hurray!) smell, touch and taste cocoa beans and different kinds of chocolate. Admission is $2.50, although people with a ScienceWorks membership get a two-for-one discount. Event attendance is limited to 60 people, so visit www.scienceworksmuseum.org to buy tickets.

Other chocolate festival events include an Ashland Gallery Association First Friday art and chocolate gallery walk, chocolate and wine pairings as well as cooking classes at Allyson's Kitchen and Waterstone Spa chocolate body treatments.

For more information about all events, visit www.ashlandspringshotel.com/10_oregon_chocolate_festival.php.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.