Showcasing the St John's and Phoenixville VegFest events, both of which are returning for 2017 after a successful first year

VegFests are vegan food festivals that celebrate the plant-based lifestyle, selling other ethical merchandise and educating people about healthy ethical living, whilst also giving them a chance to meet likeminded people and overindulge a little. These happen all over the world and are hosted by different companies and organisations. North America is welcoming the arrival of 2 new venues: St. John’s and Phoenixville.

St John's, Newfoundland VegFest

Firstly was the arrival of Vegfest to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, on Saturday 20th August at the RE/MAX Centre next to the St. John’s Farmer’s Market. This developed after one of the organizers, Jessica Whittle, posted on the Newfoundland Vegans Facebook page to suggest the idea, after which a group of volunteers joined forces and spent 10 months arranging the event.

She said “We’re all vegans, so none of us eat meat and we were just passionate about it”, continuing, “We want to share and educate people and just have a fun celebration”. Sounds about right! One of the other organizers, Erin Normandeau, said, “a couple of us got together and just saw that there was a need”. She went on “It’s sort of been spreading across North America, and we thought, ‘Well, let’s try and do it in St. John’s’”. Indeed, Vegfest is hosted annually across cities from Nashville to Ottawa, but the more that join the line-up the merrier!

What happens at St John's VegFest

The event boasted free entry with various food and merchandise vendors selling 100% vegan items with prizes and free samples, entertainment, speakers, information booths, panel discussion ‘Ask A Vegan’ and yoga for kids and teens from the Mermaid Yogi.

Some of the vendors included Panago Pizza, Epicure, Nourish Bakery, LunchIn, St. John Soap Works, Food First NL, Hoppy Homes Rescue, Please for Paws, T.O.F.U Magazine, Turtle Rest and Retirement Villa, SPCA St. John’s… honestly, the list is a lot longer. Popular vegetarian restaurants and vegan businesses were there with local foods including the Peaceful Loft, Freshii, Sedna Nutra, Tulip Baroo and Barking Kettle Farm.

Panago Pizza, a Canadian pizza chain, were showing their vegan range at the event.

Panago Pizza, a Canadian pizza chain, were showing their vegan range at the event.

As for the speakers, there were talks from a doctor, a teacher, an athlete and a scientist. The doctor, Dr. Arjun Rayapudi, is a general surgeon, plant-based nutritionist, speaker and author. His speech, ‘Foods that love you back – A general surgeon’s prescription to prevent and reverse disease’, enlightened people about how the chef’s knife may be more useful than the surgical knife for treating many chronic diseases. The teacher, Sue Ann Gardiner, had polycystic ovary syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, depression, rosacea, acne and obesity before adopting a plant-based diet only to find her ailments subsided. Tera McDonald, the athlete, has been a runner for 10 years and coaches people in running having previously worked as a personal trainer, as well as blogging about her life and running at Finally there’s the scientist, Dr. Shobha Rayapudi, who is a physician, researcher and clinical trialist. She works at the John Hopkins Centre of Clinical Trials, looking at how nutrition can play a role in preventing and reversing chronic disease.

The inaugural St John's Vegfest in Newfoundland was a resounding success, with over 2500 visitors.

The inaugural St John's Vegfest in Newfoundland was a resounding success, with over 2500 visitors.

It seems the event was a success; they had coverage from CBC on the morning of the event and following it as well as coverage from the NewFoundland Herald. The St. John's VegFest Facebook page claimed to have had over 2,500 visitors and lots of positive feedback, with Whittle saying the first St. John’s Vegfest couldn’t be any better. She is hoping that the event demonstrated to business owners that people want plant-based alternatives. “A lot of the vendors that are here, they offer a lot of meat in either their restaurants or their bakeries and stuff. They offer lots of things that have milk and eggs and stuff like that. So we’re hoping at the end of this event that they will even inspire some of the business owners that live in Newfoundland to realize there is a big demand for cruelty-free and no animal by-product foods, and they’ll bring in more alternatives for people”, she explained. Nonetheless she also seems to appreciate the growth in the market over the past decade, saying “there’s way more variety in the products that we can buy for meat alternatives and stuff like that, so for people that don’t want to not be able to have their turkey sandwich, and stuff like that, you can get lots of alternatives now, whereas five to 10 years ago, it was like non-existent. Same thing with milks now. You can get hemp milk, you can get coconut milk, you can get rice milk and soy milk, whereas five to 10 years ago all we had was soy. There’s so many more alternatives”.

St John's Vegfest date for 2017

St John's VegFest is returning for 2017, taking place on August 19th at the RE/MAX Centre once again. Stick the date in your diary!

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania VegFest

On Saturday 17th September 2016, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania also had its debut Vegfest from noon to 5pm. Specifically chosen as a date because it coincided with the Green Earth festival, the two events strongly complemented each other.

The Phoenixville Vegfest also saw huge success, and will be returning for 2017 on 30th September. Phoenixville VegFest will take place at the parking lot between Bridge and Main streets, and is sponsored by the Peace Advocacy Network (PAN).

Once again the event will be free and you can expect to find food, vendors, animal organisations, kids activities, live music, local restaurants offering deals and community-oriented stands promoting “healthy, sustainable, and compassionate living” and possibly speakers. 

Vegan Treats Bakery are just one of the many stallholders to appear at the Phoenixville Vegfest

Vegan Treats Bakery are just one of the many stallholders to appear at the Phoenixville Vegfest

Vendors will include Vegan Treats Bakery which is one of the top vegan bakeries in the USA; Sandra Severson with animal inspired art; the non-profit pig sanctuary Pig Placement Network which will sell paintings made by pigs; OMG Smoothies; Recycled Tails animal rescue; Cloud Nine Organics with organic cotton candy and popsicles; Baba’s Brew with their local kombucha; Raw is Sexy; Green Mountain Energy company… this list is not exhaustive by any means.

According to organisers “Phoenixville has become a vegan friendly town with many restaurants having vegan options available”. They continued “Participating local businesses will have vegan menus the day of the festival. These featured restaurants will receive a Phoenixville Vegfest sign displayed on their window on the day of the event”. Jessely Soto, co-organiser and member of the Peace Advocacy Board described Phoenixville as “a great place to bring a festival of this kind to the area” and the Peace Advocacy Network organisers referred to the growth of vegan options in the borough.

We look forward to seeing these events go into their sophomore years, and to all the new VegFests that will appear throughout 2017.