Last Saturday I went to the Tampa Bay Vegfest in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park on Riverwalk. It’s their 6th annual festival, but the first I’ve been to. I think last year I had a run at the same time. My loss, it was a lot of fun. Actually, my partner in crime went last year and said this year was much bigger. I guess that means I better go next year because it’ll likely only be bigger and better.
So, what do you even do at a Vegfest? Well, I think it depends of the fest. I went to one in San Diego in like ’89 and it was a total hippy fest. Reggae music, a haze over the crowd that was not tobacco smoke, a lot of girls in skirts that had not bought a razor maybe ever (I had never heard of women not shaving at the time and was a bit mystified. Still not my thing but to each their own and all). This was not that.
Fast forward 26 years (writing that makes me feel old, but lets go with wise, shall we?) and vegetarian is pretty much main stream. My 16 year old daughter is vegetarian (my sons are not), she has friends that are vegetarian that went to the festival, and my son (22) has dated like 3 vegetarians. Apparently, it’s a thing now.
The Tampa Bay VegFest had all ages from kids, to high school and college age to retirement age people. I have to admit that last one surprised me.
Anyways, what was there to do?
Well, there were lots of vendor booths. Some where selling things like t-shirts (the Hail Seitan, Go Vegan t-shirt was one of my favorites), soaps, jewellery, snacks, pretty much a bit of everything. There were also some great vegan samples. My very favorite was Treeline nut-cheese (that sounds so bad, I know). It was a spread for crackers that all by itself made a case for the deliciousness of vegan food. I had to take a picture that was too bad to share but enough that I could go buy it. There was also a coconut ice cream sandwich that was amazing, which surprised me because I have bought the same brand of vanilla ice cream in the past and didn’t love it. I’m going to have to try it again.
It was a lovely 90 degree fall day so even wearing a tank top I was happy to hear they had speakers and movies playing at the history center. We only made it to listen to one speaker, but wow was she great. We got to listen to Jo-Anne McArthur speak about animals she had met during her photojournalist adventures. Adventures sound like great things but in this case not so much. She has traveled the globe to bring us the faces and stories of animals whose lives have been hidden. She has photographed minks and foxes being raised for fur in horrific conditions, factory farm victims, a bear whose life of suffering cumulated in having his paws removed for soup (but was rescued), all sorts of things. But it’s all tempered with visits to a farm sanctuary full of happy, healthy animals and other sanctuaries which if nothing else allows you a glimpse into lives of people who dedicate themselves to good instead of evil. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that these places do exist.
There was also a food truck circle (yay, food!), bands and a cooking demonstration. I attended the Thai Tacos and Caribbean Rice and Beans demo. The demos were done by the people at thefoodpharmacy.com. Check out their web site, they have all kinds of recipes and videos on how to cook vegan recipes. Their theme seems to be good, healthy food now instead of drugs and doctor visits later. Radical, right?
Then there was the mandatory circle of animal rescue groups with dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even a great big real pig. I’m a sucker for this section and the partner in crime even put an application for a great dog there. Should hear back some time this week. A photographer and a blogger and we were so into the dog we forgot to take a picture of her. FAIL.
All in all a great time. If you’re on Facebook follow them here so that next year you’ll have all the info you need to attend. Bring your compassion and a huge appetite.