Spring has sprung! Even up here on the cold cold east coast, the trees have sprouted leaves and the radiators have taken part-time jobs as end tables until September. Flowers are bursting to life everywhere, painting my concrete town with color. I even hear similar rumors of warmth from my Canadian cronies. What does it all mean? Veg fest time!
When the plants come alive it's a wonderful time to remind the world that being vegetarian - or hey, even vegan! - is just freakin' awesome, and there are festivals and events literally all over the world to achieve just that end. The month of May is jam packed with them! If you're already vegetarian or vegan, go out, have a great time, and show support to your fellows. If you're not, go sample some great food, meet some awesome people, and see what the green life has to offer!
We've already had some great events in the Veg*n community this year, like the Seattle Veg Fest presented by Vegetarians of Washington on March 21 and 22nd - what an amazing way to bring in the spring! This is purported to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) veg fests in the world. I would love to make it out one of these years! Hey man, there's always 2010. And after all, Seattle is the city in which I first dined at an all-vegetarian Chinese restaurant. If that isn't a life-changing experience I don't know what is.
My hometown of New Orleans will be hosting it's very first NOLA Veggie Fest on May 17th, and I couldn't be more excited! (OK, I could be more excited - only if I was able to attend.) Attractions include cooking demonstrations, guest speakers, a silent auction, a raffle (to which several of us Vegan Etsians have donated prizes), and more! It all takes place at Cafe Bamboo, the first all-vegetarian restaurant to open in the crescent city since the demise of the beloved Old Dog New Trick several years back. If you're in the Gulf South area, head on out to the NOLA Veggie Fest and tell them I say hello!
Who doesn't like a good parade? Apparently vegetarians LOVE them, and it's an international feeling. On the weekend of May 16th, you can drop into Veggie Pride parades in the UK, Italy, and right here in New York City! Let me know if you're in town; I'll give you the tipoff on where to get the best vegan soft serve. ;) I've seen pictures of this event - usually of people dressed up as pea pods or the like, grinning madly and handing out flyers. If for nothing but the spectacle, it seems worth taking a peek. And I'm betting it's worth it for way more than that - heck, you might get inspired to march along!
It makes perfect sense that the weekend of the 16th is chock full of great goings on - what better way to kick off National Vegetarian Week!? Yep, that's right, we get a whole darned week now, this year stretching from May 18th to the 24th. (I, of course, am holding out for the national holiday.) As stated by the event website, "National Vegetarian Week (NVW) is the annual awareness-raising campaign promoting inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle. Celebrated by the Vegetarian Society since 1992, the Week is now an established event and everyone from small businesses to big corporations, schools, community groups and individuals are welcome to come on board and make the week a success." All I can say to that is... awesome! All you Veg*ns out there, this is the perfect week to throw your own party - and make sure the menu is spectacular!
Alright Canada, are you ready?! Thanks to Vegstock 2009, veg*ns will be rocking out the Branch Restaurant in Ottawa. Stop by from 9am to 9pm May 30th and 31st for locally sourced vegetarian food as well as live musical performances! Sounds like a laid back good time for one and all.
You Ottawans may want to split your time, though, because that last weekend in May will be a big one for you. It seems that the NCVA (National Capital Vegetarian's Association) will be holding their first annual Ottawa Veg Fest on May 31st, and you're invited to be a part of it! Looks like the admission cost of a whopping zero dollars will treat you to guest speakers and cooking demonstrations - definitely worth a visit.
And in case all that excitement in May just isn't enough for you, no worries. There are events happening to promote the wonders of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles throughout the summer and fall as well!
Start the summer right at the Richmond Vegetarian Festival on June 20th. OK, fine, so the solstice isn't until the 21st, but close enough. Richmond VA is, of course, home of the uber-dedicated group Vegan Action, and so it comes as no surprise that they are one of the main sponsors of the fest. It is plain that this event has got moxy - I gotta say, any festival whose flyer sports a Carmen Miranda cow with a vegetables-with-faces hat TOTALLY has my vote. Vote for what? Uh... veg fest with most awesomest poster? Yeah, that's probably the one. Dude, look at the mushroom! I am dying of amazingness.
These darn college kids think they're so smart... and they are! So pop on over to Johnstown, PA campus of the University of Pittsburgh from July 8th to 12th for the Vegetarian Summerfest! It's actually the annual conference of the North American Vegetarian Society, the 35th annual if you can believe it, so you'll be hanging out with the bigwigs. This one is kind of a big deal, so you'll have to register, and it'll cost you. But depending on your career goals, it might be a really great opportunity for you, so go check out that website!
On July 18th, the Main Animal Coalition will be hosting its 5th annual Vegetarian and Vegan Food Festival. And those aren't my italics in there - those are original, don't ask me why. I'm just glad they slipped both V words into their pretty poster. This event, among other offerings, boasts three vegetarian food workshops. They're also young and hip (younger and hipper than me, for sure): they've got a facebook page.
Ready for some international travel? Good, because I'm guessing you don't live in Brazil, which is the setting for the 12th annual International Vegan Festival from July 22nd to the 25th. No middleground here - it's vegan all the way, and these people mean business. Check out this intro paragraph from the website: "The world longs for peace, respect and dignity. The Environment is being mercilessly destroyed and gives back its answer. Natural resources are being exhausted by the unsustainable exploitation imposed by a wasteful mode of life. We lose species diversity without even knowing it. Diseases, obesity, suffering and hunger abound." Intense, no? Intense, yes! Sometimes an extreme situation demands an extreme reaction - and I think our friends in Brazil are ready to offer it up. If you make it there (or if you're from there!) please tell us all about it!
For the weekend of August 8th and 9th, head just west of Chicago to Naperville, IL to hang out at Veggie Fest 2009, hosted at the Science of Spiratuality Meditation Center. I have a hunch that this bunch may be veg for ethical reasons. Check it out - you might learn something! They sure are ready to teach, with health education booths, guest speakers, and more. But don't forget to have fun too - try some tasty tidbits at the food demos, and enjoy the music! And feel free to bring along the kids so that they can get their faces painted, make some crafts, and teach you a thing or two about getting the most out of a festival.
The 13th Annual Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival will be happening the weekend of Saturday, September 26th in Lee Park - rain or shine! This event is hosted by Voices for Animals and includes an adoption fair to find homes for dogs and cats - didn't you just say you'd love to adopt a dog? Or three? And a cat? Or seven?
I sure hope Brazil didn't tire you out too much, because you're going to Thailand. Specifically, you gotta get to the Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2009, happening October 18th to 26th. I can almost guarantee that you'll have a religious experience; as the Tourism Authority of Thailand website states, "The Thai-Chinese in Phuket have long passed on the vegetarian festival to purify mind and soul by refraining from meat consumption and meditating." So there ya go. Get yer cleansing and meditation on, and come out the other end knowing how great body and mind feel without animals in your diet!
If you've ever been to Boston and, while there, paid attention to their graveyards, you'll know what I'm saying when I say that I've always thought it would be totally awesome to be there for Halloween. So how psyched am I that their 14th annual Vegetarian Food Festival is happening on October 31st and November 1st? I may try to make it back up to bean town for this one - double score for sure! Spend the day perusing 100 exhibitors, spend the night spooking myself out with all that American History, and wrap it all up stuffing my face with vegan slices at T.J. Scallywaggle's... oh, yeah. Sounds like a good weekend to me.
So there you have it, more excitement about the veg*n life than you can shake a stick at. But you can try! So get out there and get shakin'! You should be busy for most of the year. Just don't forget to tell us all about it.
Post Script: Know of any more awesome vegetarian events? Let the world know!! Drop them into the comments here, or send me an email at email@example.com and I'll be happy to post about them.