Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival Turns 17

17th Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

Where: Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point (at Polk), 775-5500

When: Sept. 8-9, 12-5 p.m.

Cost: Event is free; Sampling tickets are $20 for 15 samples (purchase via Eventbrite)

The rundown: An estimated 40,000 people gather in Ghirardelli Square over two days to sample chocolate and confections from more than 30 vendors. A select few will indulge in ice cream eating competitions, and the rest of us will marvel. (There are separate categories for adults and children, so you don't have to totally embarrass yourself getting your bootie kicked by a kid.) This is the most well-known local celebration of chocolate and benefits Project Open Hand. Even though Ghirardelli Chocolate hasn't been made in San Francisco for what seems like centuries, the company is still a sweet symbol of local ingenuity.

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