Monday, September 10, 2012

Soaked and Soaking It Up At the Bethlehem VegFest

Despite a forecast of rain, it was a gorgeous day to be heading to the Bethlehem Vegfest.  Last year's inaugural event had been great, and this year's looked like it was shaping up to be even better.  VM, 89, and I grabbed our jackets and umbrellas and headed out early.

Our first stop, of course, was Vegan Treats Bakery, located only a few miles from the Fest (and open an hour earlier).  VM let me do the choosing and I started out small: cannoli, truffle/cake ball, peanut butter cup.

The cannoli was as decadent as ever, and the peanut butter cup was awesome: perfect ratio of thick, dark chocolate paired with a very peanut buttery center.

But the red velvet truffle/cake ball stole the show: crunchy, chocolatey exterior filled with moist and rich red velvet.  Total party in our mouths; I really don't know how we didn't buy 12 more of these.

Then we had the day's cupcake offerings.  On the left is Boston Creme, the center is S'mores, and the right is chocolate cheesecake.  Yum, YUM, YUM.

We pre-purchased some more stuff for pick-up later in the day, thanked the fabulously friendly Ashley and Laura for making our visit extra special, and were on our way to VegFest.

As we walked from our car to the fest grounds, who passed us but the venerable Snail.  Sorry for hollering at you while you were driving, Adam; we were just really excited (Shamefully, I've also done this to Thiru from NY Dosas).

The sun was shining as we reached the welcome booth.

No huge greeting this year or any freebies (I still have my BVF branded eggplant stress ball from last year), but the Fest grounds themselves seemed considerably larger than last.

Not sure if this carrot guy was an organizer or attendee, but he must have been really hot in there.

We started off at the VegFest photo booth, helmed by Captured by Caity: a local photographer who was offering the photos complimentary with an option to contribute to the donation jar she had set out for a local animal charity.

The idea was adorable and our photo came out great.

It's nice that we finally have a picture of us that doesn't have my thumb in it because I can't seem to master the self-photo.

As we embarked upon what turned out to be the Food Court area of the fest, we were handed a sample of a "vegan & egg free" (?) soft pretzel from Jane's Organic Pretzel.  It was really good, but tasted inexplicably buttery.  Is it possible that the ingredients were free of actual vegans, but contained butter?  If anyone is familiar, let me know.

A hot dog cart that was veg for the day (unclear on whether or not the offerings were vegan).

It was really warm and sunny, so I promptly procured a watermelon cucumber push pop.  These were from Rodale catering, a non-veg company who was kind enough not only to offer vegan options, but also to clearly mark them.

They were served in cool lidded push-pop containers and were recyclable.  It was really delicious and 89 liked it too.

We weren't ready for The Cinnamon Snail just yet, but the line was already impressive.

It was time for a treat for VM, so we stopped at the Franklin Hill Vineyards booth.  We enjoyed talking to the woman with the beautiful eyeglasses who invited us to visit the vineyard.  When I asked if the wines were vegan, she said that everyone had been asking that (!) and that she didn't know of any instance in the processing or ingredients that would involve animal products.  I've since emailed them to confirm; although I haven't yet heard back, I'll be sure to keep you posted.  VM really enjoyed her pomegranate peach spritzer (which I failed to snap a picture of).

We passed the Snail again as we looped and the line endured.  Those people in the bottom left of the frame are the end.

I didn't really bother with the food vendors who didn't have vegan options clearly advertised; if I wasn't going to be welcomed as a prospective customer, I consciously chose not to be.  At a VegFest- especially with all-welcoming, obviously vegan establishments such as Vegan Treats and The Cinnamon Snail present, I didn't find it necessary to bother with a vegan battery of questions.

"let's move on"
Then we came upon the always beautiful and impeccably presented booth of exquisite Vegan Treats.

a rare moment with a clear view
Since we'd already indulged at the shop and had more waiting for us, I didn't push through the crowd for a closer view.  People know and love Vegan Treats; no wonder they recently received the honor of being named one of the 10 best bakeries (ALL bakeries) in the world.  Well deserved!

It was such a beautiful- if not a bit hot, day to walk around enjoying the fest and there were lots of organizations representing.  Mercy For Animals, Sea Shephard,

and For the Animals Sanctuary to name a few.

I was happy these important organizations were present, but knowing that they do such good work I was disappointed that their presentations weren't more dynamic in a way that would grab attention in the extremely festive setting.  With so many non-vegans in attendance (it was CROWDED), perhaps engaging footage of their extraordinary accomplishments would have been more of a draw than simply selling vegan message wear to the converted.  It seemed a missed opportunity to educate about their cause(s) and accomplishments when they surely deserve widespread, mainstream exposure.

I hadn't previously been familiar with the Pig Placement Network,  but according to their website, their mission is:

"To promote domesticated pigs as pets.  To provide education to pet pig owners, veterinarians, shelters and the general public.  To work with animal shelters, humane societies and pet pig owners to rescue unwanted, abused or abandoned pet pigs and place them into new, loving homes."  

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but it seems to me that by promoting pigs as pets (even advertising "tea cup sized piggies" on their site), you are ultimately contributing to the breeding phenomenon of yet another animal for domestication and thereby creating the problem of unwanted "pet" pigs who are in need of your rescue and re-placement services.  Rather than "domesticate" another animal, shouldn't we instead concentrate on reducing the numbers of those that are already solely considered pets from landing in shelters where they exist in vast numbers in need of a home?

At this point we entered what seemed to be the shopping section of the fest.  We first happened upon a booth of recycled/repurposed but unfortunately animal-product laden clothing and accessories, so we were thrilled when we spied Compassion Couture.

VM got a great deal on a Matt & Nat bag.

And I got this roomy clutch from  Dialog Wordbutik,

a socially responsible company that uses recycled materials and employs people in dire circumstance or with special needs.

Hours had flown by; 89 was exhausted from walking and decided to rest on top of her stroller rather than in it.

Happily, it was time to go catch Jaime K. of Save The Kales in the Speaker Tent.

We got there early and it's a good thing we did; Jaime has a ton of fans!  That's 89 in the front row.  She enjoyed chiming in with the frequent applause by barking- much to the amusement of all in the tent.

I really enjoyed how Jaime presented her own path to veganism as an imperfect journey, showing how attainable it is to live compassionately.  And I truly appreciated that her message was simple but grand: if you want to do something, do it.  I agreed with VM that she could have held the audience's rapt attention for much longer.  Engaging and candid; it's no wonder Jaime has her own show.

I love the way 89's bow echoes Jaime's awesome gourd.
Afterwards, we visited the Compassion booth, where I got this fab button:

And then Crinoline, where owner Jaime (S.) was beautifully displaying and selling her painfully cute, vegan (in style and substance) crafts: fruits, vegetables, and tofu!

I'm sorry to say that we missed the cooking demonstrations because they were tucked a bit away from the rest of the fest.  Last year the turnouts were huge, so I hope we were the exception.

By this time we were more than ready for some Snail food.  The plan was for me to make my way towards the truck while VM and 89 waited in the Fest's Beer Garden in anticipation of their lunch (sammie for VM, kibble for 89).  Even though it was only 4:00, we began to notice that the booths were packing up.  When we tried to confirm that the Fest would run until 6:00, we were informed that they were being closed down due to an impending storm.  Aghast, we all three made a dash for the Snail, with 89 showing especially considerable skill, excitement, and speed- despite being new to leash-walking.

As the sun continued to shine, VM & 89 took a seat nearby (it was a great idea that the Fest provided these throughout the grounds) and I jumped on the Snail line.

The Snail Crew seemed to be moving at warp speed to accommodate all of the Pennsylvania brethren that had come out to support them despite the supposed threat of rain.  The excited chatter was a happy hum as the line moved forward.  Everyone I spoke to was on line for the first time and I regaled them with stories of the famed gochujang burger, as well as all of the other delicacies.  One man suggested that his group bail for a falafel from the (normally omnivorous, but presumably veg-for-the-day) Fud Truck beside, but I shot him a look that was intended to imply the ridiculousness of suggesting falafel from an omni truck vs. the ultimate Snail food; the message was received loud and clear.

Eventually VM & 89 walked over.  Thinking they were alone, another attendee had warned them to leave the grounds because there was a storm only minutes away.  Did VM want me to vacate my place in line?  No; we had to have lunch!  "I just thought we'd stay together."  Soon after it began to drizzle, so they stood away from the Snail crowd under the awning of the Fud Truck, who had already closed it's window to customers.

This is the last thing I saw before naively shoving my iPhone in my pocket for safe-keeping as the rain deluge came so fast and strong that the dozen or so of us nearby (including 2 Whippets and a huge, fluffy dog) almost involuntarily huddled intimately under the Snail's awning as pouring rain shot sideways in a manner that suggested it was aiming for us.  The wind whipped and order tickets flew out the Snail window; loyalists on the outskirts of the huddle chased and returned them in an extremely impressive showing of Snail camaraderie.

At one point Adam peered out from the dry haven of the Snail and- looking all at once touched, impressed, and amused- congratulated us for being such loyal fans and promising free donuts.  Even as the Snail sat parked in what seemed to be the eye of the storm, his love and gratitude was palpable.

When my order was called, I could do nothing but blindly pass sopping wet bills through the window as I futiley wiped my eyes with a napkin.  It felt like the rain was dousing my head like a gushing firehose.  I'm still wondering if it's possible that I was standing under a seam in the awning, or did the storm really come from the top down and the bottom up as it felt?  Lunch finally in hand, I squeezed out of the confines and splashed my way to VM, who was nobly using our two umbrellas to minimally shield both herself and 89 in the face of what I can only describe as a rainflood.  I peeked in at 89, who seemed to implore, "Why am I wet!?" and then almost wordlessly exchanged my phone (for a better chance of surviving in VM's bag) for the car keys and ran as if through the ocean towards the car.

It was only when I got there that it hit me how literally soaked I was.  I searched the trunk for things that would shield the seats from our wet bodies, as well as something to wrap 89 in- as I was certain that our jackets had been soaked in the rainflood.  I drove back to them and the first thing VM instructed me to do was to carefully transfer the Snail food to the car.  How's that for loyal Snailism?  Then she told me that the Fud Truck had almost driven away with her still under their awning- yup, without even putting their awning down, let alone making sure the lady with the stroller was a safe distance away (not cool, Fud Truck).  We experienced a bit of panic when the keys seemed to have been misplaced, but then we were all safely inside and on our way.  Although we'd long since reached our saturation points, it was nice to have a reprieve from the rain assault.

Snail loyalists
Everything was soaked: our bags, our purchases, ourselves.  As luck would have it, 89's t-shirt was the only thing with us that had inexplicably remained dry deep inside my bag, so she snuggled on my lap in it and was just fine as we headed to Vegan Treats to pick up our order from what seemed like weeks ago, but had in fact been only that morning.

As we pulled up we could see through the windows that the store was packed.  The smartest people who hadn't had the fortitude to wait for Snail food had at least had the good sense to head towards the bastion of veganity that is Vegan Treats.  It's a considerable drive home and we were not willing to save our Snail food until we got there, so VM and I decided to picnic in the car.  Her smoked portabello mushroom carpaccio sandwich with fried caper berries, caramelized onions, truffled kalamata olive tapenade, and arugula on grilled herb focaccia was perfectly packed for eating-on-the-go and was just as delicious as always- despite the frenzied conditions under which it was prepared.

Inspired by the recent write-up on Midtown Lunch, I finally tried the Korean barbecue seitan served open faced on a grilled tortilla slathered with chili butter, kimchi and greens.  As artfully prepared as if it had been done at leisure, I'd made the right choice.  Utensils were in absence, so I folded it up like a massive burrito and chowed down.

Please don't call Animal Cops; it was unintentional that a sleeping 89 wound up covered in grilled tortilla crumbs (ok, and a piece of seitan).

Finally satiated, we recounted the day's abbreviated but eventful showing. VM pointed out that we had now successfully enjoyed the Snail in three states!  It was at this point that I realized there was an extra box in my Snail bag: a touching gift of awesome Snail donuts!  Thank you SO MUCH!

There are two lessons to be learned here.  The first is obvious:  good things come to those who wait.  The second?  Don't wear lime green underwear when there's rain in the forecast and even the slightest possibility that your pants will become transparent when wet.  You're welcome.

Since an exhausted 89 was already settled on my lap for the drive home, VM braved the packed bakery to pick up our order.

This included, but was not limited to, a whoopee pie...

and a sticky bun.

Vegan Treats fossil!

While she was in there, VM finally had the opportunity to grab Danielle's attention and tell her what she thinks of all that she has accomplished in the name of animals, delicious food, and veganism, "This place is remarkable."  I concur.

And to end a day started with Vegan Treats with even more Vegan Treats, VM delivered to me a coveted cup of VT ice cream: chocolate and peanut butter swirl with rainbow sprinkles to be exact.

It was as good as ever.

So, despite the soaking, it was an awesome day at Bethlehem VegFest.  They really do an excellent job of organizing and executing an impressive and welcoming event.  But how about we strive for a Veg(an)Fest next year?

There can be no better evidence of the Fest's opportunity and need to progress to an all-vegan event than the fact that the most sought after sights were proudly all-vegan.  I've now been to both of the Bethlehem VegFests; they were each successful, joyous events that obviously attracted a huge crowd: vegan, vegetarian, and non-veg.  What these people all have in common is that they can appreciate and enjoy vegan food, wares, and organizations- as well as benefit from veganism's strive for total compassion... and pass it on.  The simple fact is that VegFest has the public's attention; why not use it for the most good possible by presenting a unified, wholly cruelty-free, vegan event?  It would be epic.


  1. Abby,

    I know you have a peanut butter cup saved for me if your freezer, right???

  2. You've outdone yourself with this post, Abby. It was great fun to read as well as very informative. I completely agree with you about the pet pig thing. So short-sighted. It reminds me of all the enthusiasm for backyard chickens even though chickens are becoming the fastest growing additions to animal shelters.

    I was hysterical reading your description of the rain (though sympathetic to your plight) and the sight of poor, drenched 89 minus her smile, was acute confirmation of the deluge.

    As a side note, you'll be pleased to know I had another Mighty-O yesterday. I pass it all the time on walks, and you're a bad influence on me.

  3. Abby, I finally tried Cinnamon Snail the other day! It was really fantastic, but you are a true loyalist to stand on that line in the rain! They really know how to do right by their customers.
    The fest sounds pretty entertaining, despite the rain. Good point about the pet pigs. I've always wanted one but I know better than that...

  4. What a day!!! I feel like I lived it all over again reading this wonderful description of the events...

  5. 89 is too frickin' cute!!! Sounds like an awesome Fest! Wish NYC's fest was as well organized.

  6. My Vegan Gut- My freezer eats sweets. Oh wait, that's me.

    Thanks, Andrea! High praise coming from you. Pigs and chickens- more ways for us to amuse ourselves at the expense of the dogs, cats, etc. already filling our shelters. You'll be happy to know that 89 recovered from the soaking with a nice bath. And I'm so glad that you're stopping into Mighty-O more often!

    foodfeud- Finally! I hope you really liked it; I can't think of many other places I'd get drenched for. It's a great fest; I just wish they'd be a little more vegan-conscious even if they choose not to be vegan.

    VM- even the wet part? I forgot to mention that when I stopped to use the rest room on the way home I pulled a muscle wrestling with my wet clothes.


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