Vegetarian Festival Highlights
Photos by Billy Johnson and Kimberly Hollon
Whether you’ve been a committed vegan for years, are a flexitarian, or even if you’re just flirting with the idea of a healthier diet and more protective environment for our animal friends, Bryan Park was the place to be on Saturday. The tenth celebration of the Richmond Vegetarian Festival was held in the Azalea Gardens and truly offered something for everyone.
My friends and I arrived at the Festival at around 1 p.m. and were immediately greeted at the welcome booth by the Pledge to Go Veg board. All who pledged were entered into a drawing for a copy of The China Study. The welcome booth was littered with vegetarian-themed stickers and a variety of informational pamphlets, practically all of which were gone by the time we left the park.
Since the focal point of a Vegetarian gathering is food, the leafy nook housing the various area restaurants and food vendors was positively packed. Naturally, this is where we headed first. Whole Foods offered samples of marinated kale and California quinoa and handed out coupons for a complimentary bottle of their Zesty Tahini Dressing as well as a quinoa recipe. While I’ve ordered quinoa in many a restaurant and prepare it often in my own kitchen, Whole Foods’ offering really stood out. The quinoa was bright, flavorful and filling and the kale was crisp and tangy. I was excited to find that Whole Foods hosts hundreds of healthy, delicious recipes at wholefoodsmarket.com.
Smoothie King was on hand with delicious ready-to-go fruit smoothies and coupons. Cous Cous offered a slice of their Mediterranean menu with their unbelievably fragrant vegan lentil balls in a caramelized onion and currant sauce. Their tangerine iced tea was a big hit and seemed to be the beverage of choice throughout. Ginger Thai Taste kept it simple with tofu pad thai and I don’t mind telling you that their tofu was probably the best of any Asian restaurant I’ve ever sampled. Soul Ice Vending was hopping all day long with non-dairy, fat and cholesterol free frozen treat that they offer in twenty-six different flavors. Their flavor mixes are reminiscent of hot summer days, ice cream trucks and theme-park frozen sweets.
Just next to the food vendors was the stage, situated in such a way that attendees could snack, shop and peruse the booths with a steady stream of chill, original sounds provided by the likes of Rattlemouth and Hotel X. There were five acts in total and while I enjoyed them as a backdrop for other activities, the stage seats seemed to be rather full all day.
The speakers tent was the place to be for thought-provoking speakers like Karen Davis, who is President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns and sought to answer common questions with her presentation ‘Is it Hard – or easy – to be a vegan?’ Jen Hurst – The River City Vegan – offered Vegan 101, a simple and helpful cooking demo in preparing quick and easy vegan meals. Tammy Brawley, caterer and chef of The Green Kitchen demonstrated how to prepare Red Quinoa Salad. Last on the list of presentations was the Vegetarian’s version of the Iron Chef: Meatless Gourmet, where three of the Richmond area’s up-and-coming chefs who competed for the title of ‘Meatless Gourmet 2012′.
For the kiddies, there was Kron’s Kids booth which offered story telling at the top and bottom of every hour. The Kids’ Patch offered moonbounce, spin-art, and crafts. There was also face-painting and while I was tempted, I managed to refrain.
Vendors present at the festival ran the gamut in terms of interest groups. Dog rescues, conservation groups, farm and garden vendors, women’s services, wellness centers to name a few. As I visited each booth, however, I began to realize that there was one common theme present at every booth and that theme was a very basic communal desire for a better living environment. Better treatment for animals, awareness for our LGBT community, various forms of outreach and a sharper focus on our own quality of life. This is the sort of sense of caring and community that’s necessary when hosting an event and the Richmond Vegetarian Festival pulled it off without a hitch and in quite an enjoyable, memorable way.
If you were unable to attend, please visit veggiefest.org to see a full list of vendors, presenters and to visit the various sponsors’ websites where you will find a wealth of information about living vegan and the personal and environmental benefits that accompany such a decision.
Friend of the animals, aspiring writer, bibliophile, dedicated gamer and fan of all things electronica. Cynical, satirical, yet somehow still optimistic.
We know where we’ll be Friday night. Check out our roadmap to help guide you this weekend in GayRVA.June 16, 2011
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