Over the last weekend, there were veg fests taking place all over the country! VegFestLA and VegFestMichigan to name a couple but they were going on all over and I think it not only says a lot about how the vegan community is growing, but they’re also a great way of promoting just how amazing a vegan lifestyle can be! As I am based in Connecticut, I attended the New England Veg Fest, held at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA and thought I’d share my experience.
I attended this shindig last year too but this year was a little more epic because James Aspey was the main event. After arriving at the event about 15 minutes before he was due to start, I ran like the wind from the parking lot, straight up the 2 escalators and managed to get myself a spot standing up at the back. I was one of the lucky ones as about 1 minute after I got in, they were at full capacity, disappointing many people who were still hoping to get in.
I see why there was such a high demand because the speech James delivered was awesome, and I mean that in the true sense of the word. It was somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster; informative, inspiring, heart wrenching and humorous, whilst always remaining on point and appropriate for the topic at hand. His laid back demeanor whilst delivering hard hitting facts surrounding the meat and dairy industry is what makes him so approachable to vegans and non vegans alike.
So it’s safe to say the speaker was a hit but what about the festival itself? I walked into the exhibit room and was instantly hit with the sound of live music which was great. It could be heard throughout the entire exhibition and added to the sense of excitement in the air. The festival had already been open for 3 hours before I rocked up so it was definitely in full swing by the time I got there and the amount of people in a relatively small space was a little overwhelming at first. Once I started to move through the exhibits, I saw so much tasty food; from Three Girls Creamery grilled cheese sandwiches to Lightlife hotdogs; from cakes at Vegan Treats, to ice cream, courtesy of Like No Udder. It was definitely not short on options and with that much variety, there was most certainly food for all tastes!
On top of the food options, there were many companies offering animal oriented apparel (got myself a t shirt from GrapeCat), beauty products, condiments, accessories and pet treats (picked up some Camberville treats for my pups) but perhaps most importantly, there was an abundance of different animal charities offering information on their organisations through conversation and written literature. I managed to speak to a few and came home with plenty of information to read up on! I was lucky enough to have a chat with the kind lady at the Beagle Freedom Project who introduced me to a great app that can instantly identify products that have and haven’t been tested on animals, which I look forward to testing out. The crazy nice guy representing the Humane League was lovely to talk to and I found out all about the Pet Rock festival at their stand, which I hadn’t heard of before. I wish I could have spoken to more but with so many people in attendance, it wasn’t that easy!
So all in all, I had a great time trying new foods and gaining information from a whole host of worthy causes but there are a few things I’d recommend as improvements for future events. I know it has been widely suggested this event could really use a bigger venue and it’s definitely a valid point. The stalls are very tightly packed, sometimes making it difficult to move around and even more difficult to actually approach the stands to find out more. The huge crowds within such a small space can make it slightly overwhelming at times. As I mentioned before, there were large amounts of people turned away from the speeches due to such a small room and even though James Aspey changed his plans and gave 2 speeches, many disappointed people didn’t know this was the case and essentially missed out. Last year I was hoping to see Bite Size Vegan speak, but couldn’t fit in the room.
The other thing that slightly perplexes me is the companies with stalls that are in no way vegetarian or vegan, although I do appreciate the vendors are a way to raise money for the event through their participation fees. Personally I would happily pay an entrance fee and know I was only supporting vegan or at least vegetarian companies, rather than get in for free and unknowingly be supporting companies with no affiliation with the vegan/vegetarian movement. As an example, a demonstration took place from a restaurant who serve meat and dairy, which is the complete opposite of what this event is all about. I was even informed of a sign they had up during the demo promoting “humane” meat and “free range” eggs with merely blanked out meat and dairy products (although I must point out, I did not see this sign myself). It’s almost a shame to see otherwise animal exploitative companies, cashing in on vegetarian events.
Despite the above points, it was a very well organised event, with a massive variety of foods to try, products to buy and animal charities to find out about. Everyone involved should be immensely proud. Although I found the crowds a little much, I also find it amazing that so many people are flooding to a vegetarian event, it fills me with so much hope and the fact this event could use a bigger venue is brilliant really. I’d definitely recommend this event to everyone whether they are currently vegan or not, even if it’s just to try out the delicious food samples!