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Whether it’s served as a drink, wrapped around caramel or melted between a couple of graham crackers, it’s hard to beat chocolate. Especially when it’s free.

The Chocolate Lovers’ Shopping Day Extravaganza returns this Saturday, and it will bring with it the chance to taste all kinds of chocolate at businesses in downtown Beatrice. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Feb.3, chocoholics can get their fix and do a little shopping at Main Street Beatrice’s eighth annual free event.

The event starts at 601 Court Street for registration. Visitors that register will get a shopping bag full of goodies like coupons, flyers and a map, as well as a punch card, before heading out to do some shopping.

There are 20 different businesses participating this year, said Main Street Beatrice Executive Director Michael Sothan, and each one is offering their own take on the chocolate theme.

“It's a variety,” Sothan said. “Some of the businesses go out and purchase or get someone that specializes in different desserts to make their different candy and such. Others do make it homemade.”

In the past, he said, businesses have offered up homemade truffles, specialty dessert pizzas and one year, a Beatrice bar even had chocolate martinis on offer.

The only requirement for participating businesses is to provide something made of chocolate, and that could include drinks, cakes, cookies, truffles or any other cocoa-laden dessert, that’s up to them.

The chocolate shopping route winds its way through downtown from Black Crow to the east, up to Valentino’s to the west and from Tall Tree to the north and the Salvation Army to the South.

“It's one of those things where the majority of our people do make it to every single one of the stops,” Sothan said. “The nice thing is, they don't really have to walk that far. Everything's within just a couple blocks.”

On Thursday afternoon, Sothan was busy setting up the registration desk with Sandi Steele who also works at Main Street. Steele has been around for several of the Extravaganzas and said it keeps getting bigger each year.

They’re expecting about 25 or 30 more people they had than last year’s record crowd and quite a lot more than the 50 people who showed up on the snowy day the first one was held.

“We had 149 last year,” Steele said. “That was those who signed up for the event. There had to be another 30 to 40 that trailed along that were not old enough.”

While kids can tag along, the event is really aimed at those 21 and up, Sothan said. They encourage people to stop for lunch, he said, and stopping for a glass of wine is a good way to cleanse the palette.

For the people who make it to each of the 20 locations, they can return to where they registered to be entered into the grand prize drawing. This year, Main Street Beatrice is offering two Valentine’s Day-themed baskets for the lucky winners.

Sothan said that the Chocolate Lovers’ Shopping Day Extravaganza is one event in Beatrice where nearly half of all the people who attend are from out of town. They get people from as far away from Fairbury, northern Kansas, Pawnee City, Tecumseh and even Lincoln, he said, which really picks up downtown foot traffic.

“We do see people walking around with shopping bags in their hand,” Sothan said. “Whether that's a pair of shoes or something from the antique store or whatever it might be, we have definitely seen it be successful.”

Making it a day for just eating some free chocolate is fine, Sothan said, but there are a lot of visitors who are dedicated to a day of shopping, which is something that retailers have seen as well.

“Talking to a lot of our business owners, a lot of them have noticed that,” he said. “This is an event that we like to say does help ring the cash registers.”


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