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THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR FEB 11 - 17 

Cache Valley Virtual Chocolate Festival, Valentine's Day activities, Utah Symphony: Mozart & Mendelssohn, and more.

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Cache Valley Virtual Chocolate Festival
We're all missing our favorite in-person events over the past year, and there's certainly no way to replicate the experience of wandering through a space where you can nibble a wide range of tasty chocolate treats. But the Cache Valley Chocolate Festival is still moving forward with its annual fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah—in fittingly enough for an organization dedicated to keeping people safe, the event is proceeding as a virtual version.

The virtual Chocolate Festival itself takes place Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m., including presentations by festival judges and dessert-makers, visions of past years' showstopper treats, information about the work of Planned Parenthood that is supported by the fund-raiser, and musical performances by artists including Highline Drifters and Kendall Becker. Tickets are required to "attend" the online event, at a variety of donation levels beginning at $10. Donations at $25 and above will receive special premiums including a chocolate goody bag, hand-dipped Bluebird Chocolates, a cheese platter and more so they can simulate the full festival experience.

An online auction allows for even more opportunities to sample delicious goodies, with bidding opening up on Wednesday, Feb. 10; separate online registration from the event ticket purchase is required to participate as an auction bidder. And for local bidders, items can be delivered to winners in time for the Valentine's Day weekend.

Visit thechocolatefest.com for information about both auction registration and event ticket purchasing. You can support a great cause and support your sweet tooth at the same time. (SR)

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Valentine's Day activities
This feels like a particularly cruel year to celebrate couplehood, considering how many people have been isolated and unable to make personal connections over the past 11 months. Yet for those who have been pandemic bubble-ing in tandem, you also might be particularly inclined to celebrate that your enforced time together hasn't made you drive one another crazy yet. Ah, romance!

Depending on your comfort level with going out into the world, a wide range of possibilities present themselves for getting Valentine-y this weekend. The Paint Mixer (1327 E. 2100 South, Suite 102, thepaintmixer.com) offers a paint-and-sip "Lovers in Paris" date night on Saturday, Feb. 13, 7-9 p.m., with art materials and step-by-step instructions included in the $35 per person admission, with wine purchase available for additional cost (21+ only, masks required and space limited for social distancing). Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. also marks an outing of the Heber Valley Railroad's (450 S. 600 West, Heber City, hebervalleyrr.com) Valentines Special, including a rose, sparkling cider, artisan cheese and chocolates, plus performance by the Midway String Quartet (remaining seating availability extremely limited at press time).

If you'd like fewer people around you as you get cozy and romantic, visit Ogden Nature Center (966 W. 12th St., Ogden, ogdennaturecenter.org) on Saturday, Feb. 13, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. for a "Nature is for Lovers" self-guided outdoor trail walk. Admission ($2 members/$6 non-members) includes G-rated nature facts about animal couples, and photo opportunities. Find the event that's just right for you, and make the most of your day of romance. (SR)

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Utah Symphony: Mozart & Mendelssohn
Classical music, for many if not most laypeople, doesn't always exist on a historical continuum. We might know a Beethoven or Mozart piece, but don't always think about the eras in which they were created, who was influencing whom, or which works were created by composers looking backward towards the previous greats in their art. For the current virtual presentation—available now through March 3—Utah Symphony presents two string quartets that both take us on journeys through their respective composers' interests in what came before.

Felix Mendelssohn in general loved exploring connections between musical generations, and his String Quartet No. 3 in D major also includes a final movement that recalls his own Italian symphony. Wolfgang Mozart's String Quartet in D minor, meanwhile, evokes Mozart's interest in paying homage to the string quartets of Joseph Haydn. It's also unique in the sense of being part of a series of six quartets that were not created as part of a commission, but simply because Mozart was inspired by the ideas—and it's particularly fascinating to see what an artist is working from nothing but their own creative passions.

The 30-minute digital performances of Utah Symphony—featuring artists Yuki MacQueen (violin), Alex Martin (violin), Joel Gibbs (viola) and John Eckstein (cello)—are available on a pay-what-you-can basis, with a minimum of $10. Visit utahsmphony.org to purchase tickets and view the upcoming schedule. (SR)

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