In other North American cities, tasks like washing windows and changing the oil in the lawnmower are considered rites of spring.

How lucky are we to live in a place where eating chocolate is a major sign that robins and tulips are just around the corner?

The annual Chocolate Lovers’ Fling, scheduled for Sunday at Holiday Inn By the Bay, is the way a lot of Portlanders track the change of seasons. The event, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m., is a longstanding benefit for Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.

Last year, the fling broke records, drawing more than 1,000 people and raising more than $30,000 for the cause. Organizers have set those benchmarks as their new goals for this year.

What’s the attraction? All the chocolate you can eat made by southern Maine chocolatiers, restaurants and chefs. Among those participating this year are Maine Gourmet Chocolates, East End Cupcakes, Old Port Candy Co., Bella Cheesecakes, Y-Lime’s Gourmet Desserts and 14 others.

These chocolatiers will be entering 25 different confections in a bid to win the overall People’s Choice Award or one of the awards for Best Truffle, Best Cake, Best Mousse and so on.

What exactly are they making? They could tell you, but then they’d have to drown you in molten chocolate.

“They’re being very secretive about it this year,” said Karen Packard, president of the SARSSM board of directors.

The fling is also raffling off some impressive gift baskets. Each of the seven primary baskets will contain a $100 Hannaford gift card in addition to other goodies.

“The raffle baskets are a very big deal this year in terms of the value of the baskets themselves,” Packard said. “People were very, very generous.”

The “Dining In and Out” basket, for example, contains gift certificates worth $25 to $50 at Aurora Provisions, the Green Elephant, Street & Co., Bob’s Clam Hut and Standard Baking, plus one of the $100 Hannaford cards.

The “Chocolate Blitz” basket contains a candy-making kit from LeRoux Kitchen, a dozen chocolate cupcakes from Sugar Hill Baking, a gift certificate for a pie at Pie In the Sky Bakery, a voucher for two tickets to next year’s fling, and one of the $100 grocery cards.

Packard said guests need to be present to win. Half the baskets will be given away at 2:45 p.m. and the rest at 3:30 p.m.

There have been lots of requests over the years for Chocolate Lovers’ Fling T-shirts, and Packard says this year they will be available for $10.

Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. The fling is also offering VIP tickets for $50. VIP ticket holders get the royal treatment: They sit at tables instead of standing in line, and servers bring them their chocolate on nice plates, along with coffee and tea.

The only downside? Spending Sunday night in a chocolate coma.

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at [email protected]

Twitter: Meredith Goad