I’ve been to vegan festivals and conferences across the nation as both an attendee and a speaker. You can find them in almost every large city in the country and they continue to grow! Vegan festivals are even in Texas of all places! The last one I attended and spoke at was the 2nd Annual Texas VegFest in Austin where I currently live. Austin is pretty hip and progressive with a host of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and veg organizations. I find it to be one of the most fun cities to live in as a vegan and I had the most amazing time at the VegFest . They had over 5,000 people come!
Other amazing festivals I’ve been to include the Texas State Veggie Fair, NYC Vegetarian Food Fest, Portland VegFest, Vida Vegan Con, World Peace & Yoga Jubilee, and the Taste of Health cruise. They are all unique but they have a few very important things in common.
This is a huge draw for any festival, especially one meant for vegans. We LOVE food! If you are putting on a festival you need to make sure you have plenty of food vendors with a variety of food choices. One complaint I noticed at a few festivals was there wasn’t enough “healthy” choices. Don’t just have funnel cakes, bakeries, and burgers, have a good selection of healthier options.
When I go to a festival I like to try things I’ve never had before. At the NYC Veg Food Festival I was introduced to Beyond Sushi, which was some of the best sushi I had ever tried! At the Texas VegFest, some of my favorite Houston and Dallas businesses came down for the day like Sinfull Bakery and Good Karma Kitchen food truck. My belly was so happy with all the food variety. Don’t be afraid to try something new!
Most festivals have speakers on all kinds of topics ranging from how to be a better activist, how to talk to pre-vegans more effectively, health benefits of a vegan diet, how to get enough protein and be a better athlete, and if it’s a really great fest it will have cooking demos. That’s where I usually come in. Most speakers travel and take a lot of time out of their lives to be at these so be sure to show them some love and attend the talks and demos. You might not believe it but most of the time we aren’t paid to speak at festivals so if an author has a book to purchase and you don’t have it yet buy it then and get it signed! Even though I’ve been vegan for 11 years and have taught cooking demos for 8 of those I still go to the talks and cooking demos. I always learn something new!
Every festival and conference will have a host of vendors ranging from vegan food products, clothing, accessories, supplements, home goods, and other eco-friendly products. Most food manufacturers will be sampling so be sure to fill up on all the samples you can get. That’s really a huge draw for a festival. And almost always there’s a company I’ve never seen before or my favorite companies have new products to try. Also bring cash with you because you are bound to find an adorable t-shirt or something else you must have. I always bring a Chico bag in my purse to carry all the goodies I’ve collected over the course of the day. And don’t forget your own water bottle to stay hydrated!!
Last but not least, an integral part of a vegfest is to have non-profits represented that educate attendees on animal rights, how to go vegetarian, and other activism. Many people attending these festivals are not already vegetarian/vegan and are ready to learn all about it! If you hear of a vegfest in your town and know of an organization that would be a great addition be sure to let them know. Non-profits always get a discount on the booth fee and the more that are there the better.
I don’t think I could choose just one but what is YOUR favorite thing about vegan festivals and conferences?