Monday, September 19, 2011

Bethlehem VegFest

A while back, a friend clued me in to the upcoming Bethlehem VegFest.  It seemed obvious from the website that it was a vegetarian event, so I was uncertain as to whether it would be worth the trek*, especially when I learned that in the VegFest Foods Week leading up to the event, vegan options were not guaranteed.

But the day before, VM proposed a road trip I couldn't refuse: a few hands of Let it Ride at the Sands Casino and a stroll through the possibly vegan-friendly Bethlehem VegFest- punctuated by a visit to Vegan Treats before and after (what?), of course.  Sold.


Our day started as all days should, with a Vegan Treats breakfast.  Then we headed over to the Vegfest.  I recalled the website stating that there would be free street parking on 3rd St, but since the meters where we parked were curiously devoid of signs or information indicating when they were in use and when not- least of all during VegFest, we chose to be on the safe side and filled it to capacity- 3 hours.  Quite a bit early, we checked out some of the shops on 3rd before heading over to the fest exactly at noon.

On the way we passed this cool car and we knew we were headed in the right direction!


When we got a glimpse of this sign, we had our first inkling that what we were about to embark upon was no tiny fair.


Without realizing it As a result of intricate planning, we approached the fair right at the center point, and were impressed to see such a professionally executed, appealing welcome.


There were T-shirts ("Lettuce Rejoice", "Let There Be Peas On Earth"), limited edition bottles of wine, and a bunch of complementary goodies. 


Neither of us could resist these squeezable, branded eggplants:


VM got a Bethlehem calendar, although we both wondered why Vegan Treats wasn't on the cover:


A coupon book:


We also got our hands on a Vegfest program: swanky!


And a map of the fest layout.



Seems awfully organized and impressive, right?   It was.

When we finally looked out at the grounds we were positively awestruck by the fest- as far as the eye could see.  To the left of us....


And to the right:


Where to begin?

We stopped at the Vegetarian Resource Group table, where they were selling cookbooks, etc., and giving away lots of literature.  VM & I both got "Be Kind to Animals, Don't Eat Them" bumper stickers.



Bypassing the fitness-oriented area, next up for us was the Zoup booth where VM highly enjoyed a sample of a vegetarian sandwich.


I tried the Italian Pasta and Vegetable soup, and was told that they always have a vegan soup option.  On their website, the menu says only "vegetarian"; I'd recommend double checking- you can never be too careful.


Next up was the Emeril's Italian Table booth, where they were making impressively sized salad samples that drew a sizable crowd.


Mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, charred corn, and potato chip croutons; it was extremely tasty.  As someone who has dined at this establishment in the Sand's Casino, VM noted that these sample salads were considerably bigger than the ones she has had as an appetizer for $9. 


A few of the booths were mini farmer's markets unto themselves.  Behold these mama-sized eggplants.


More fruits and veggies- these from Bechdolt's Orchard



If you don't have a farmstand nearby, don't ignore this "vegan section" at your local supermarket!


This Smart Juice was delicious and really made of 100% juice.  That's my sample waiting for me atop that bottle.


We learned that there is a health food store nearby with a non-veg cafe that offers vegan options: Cafe Santosha.  Never fear, though; I'm still satisfied to eat Vegan Treats all day long!


I did try their sweet potato black bean soup; it was pretty darn tasty (once I picked out that piece of fresh gag-weed cilantro).


Another vegetarian business offering vegan options was Hello Burrito.  To the nice lady with the friendly shirt, I'm sorry I cut your head off.  I didn't realize you were looking at me, let alone smiling all friendly-like!


Subway was giving out samples of their veggie patty sandwich.  Another fest-attendee asked if it was vegan and one of the Subway employees said it wasn't.  The other employee followed up with, "It almost is."  As all the nearby vegans walked away rolling their eyes, I overheard him ask his co-worker what exactly "vegan" means.  As someone who likes Subway (there, I said it), this was particularly irritating.  Would someone ever say something was almost kosher, or almost peanut free?  I don't think so.


This was one of the packed cooking demonstrations.  I admit that we didn't hang around because neither of us can listen to a monologue about the superiority of heirloom tomatoes for any extended period of time, but we did notice that they were all well-attended.  Incidentally, it seemed as though most of the cooking demos were distinctly vegetarian and helmed by restaurants with no vegan options on their menus.  Maybe the fest's turn-out will sway them to consider otherwise?  Keep requesting vegan options, people- wherever you may be.


And then we saw it, under a compassionate big top.


Vegan Treats!


Everything was presented with appetizing perfection, per usual:


Because the fest was a free event on a beautiful day, I had my suspicions that most of the attendees were neither vegan or vegetarian.  At the crowded Vegan Treats tent, a customer asked if the desserts were vegetarian.  The man seated in the picture above explained that everything was made with no animal ingredients whatsoever.  The patron replied, "That's interesting."  It's more than interesting; who can pass up these compassionate delicacies?

OMG, how did I miss the first pumpkin cheesecake of the ^ season?
In addition to booths, demos, and speakers, there were also two musical stages at the Fest- on either end of the considerable greenway.  We were particularly taken by Jamie & the Magic Torch.  When we first heard him he was singing what I assume was a self-penned ditty with the refrain, "eat your vegetables", but we were really hooked when he covered Kermit the Frog.

For the Animals Sanctuary had a booth where they were selling a zillion veg-themed buttons.  I realize this doesn't look like a zillion, but trust me; there were boxes full as well.


What is it with vegans and buttons? I got three.



I was a little disappointed that there weren't more veg-themed booths.  There were quite a few non-themed jewelry, apparel, and accessory venders, so I certainly think that t-shirts, bags, and buttons from vegan companies would have really both made an impact and done a lot of business.  Gotta love message wear!

There was also a whole section of the fair devoted to companion animals, many of whom were in attendance.  Let's face it: animals always trump people.


Unfortunately, due to the over-population of yellow jackets, we had to leave the fest before Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House spoke.  The OHH blogpost about the event, by the way, is to thank for letting me know that Jaime K. of Save the Kales blog was the impetus behind this whole, impressive festival.  Jaime, it seems, has an all-vegan event in the works; she is definitely one to watch. Incidentally, I picked up this handy pocket guide at her booth.


On our way out, we were amused by two women who ran up to the welcome tent and shrieked excitedly, "Where is Vegan Treats?"  The volunteer seemed stunned, but us VT loyalists understood; we pointed them directly to the big top.

We were disappointed to have left earlier than we'd planned, but we had great fun noticing all of the adorable VegFest advertisements in nearby store windows as we made our way back to the car; the organizers certainly left no detail unattended. 

Am I allow to show these cute signs?  Please don't sue me.

Just a unicorn in a nearby store that I thought was awesome.


The Bethlehem VegFest was a great example of inviting the masses to share in the excitement of a veggie-based, compassionate lifestyle.  Next year I hope to celebrate an all vegan VegFest; I'll see you there.

*As a vegan, I can feel just as out of place- if not moreso- amidst vegetarians/in a vegetarian restaurant as I do surrounded by omnivores. Somehow society regards vegetarians as quirky bunny-huggers, while vegans are crazy militants.  Worse, some folks don't see the difference between the two- one being a diet choice and one a lifestyle; this can be dangerous in food environments.

3 comments:

Bess said...

Love everything about this recap except Subway's "almost vegan" patty. I mean one point away from passing the bar exam is still not passing!

foodfeud said...

Vegans love buttons! They are almost as cute as animals!

Abby Bean said...

Excellent "point", Bess!

FF: tee hee