October 3, 2010
Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer
The first VegFest I attended took place in a church basement. Howard Lyman (aka the Mad Cowboy) was a guest speaker, and Dave himself of Dave's Killer Bread offered slices of bread if you were brave enough to approach the muscle-bound baker.
This year, dozens of astute and accomplished guests spoke or demonstrated veg cooking techniques. Dave of Dave's Killer Bread sent a half-dozen staff to serve generous slices of bread through neatly organized plastic shelves.
Things have grown in the veg world.
On Saturday, I arrived a little early for my volunteer shift at VegFest, so I got to visit some of the vendors, fully stocked, tables neatly decorated, and faces fresh before the doors officially opened to thousands of hungry and curious people.
At Westfall’s raw chocolate booth, two little girls looking like VegFest fairies offered me some "green drink." The taller of the two girls told me in a sweet, bird-like voice, "It’s really good for you." The smaller girl chimed in, "It tastes like apple juice." She was right, it did taste like apple juice, I said as I sipped my serving thoughtfully, trying to match the serious expressions of their faces as they watched me try their green drink. I imagined what it would be like to be veg at that age, to sip green drink with such faith and enthusiasm, and to know at such a young age about the power of plants to sustain a healthy life.
Then, Herbivore’s table distracted me. I spotted the sweatshirt I’d seen at my very first VegFest five years before. "Hey, you have these again!" I said. The guy at the booth was also the creator of the design. We discussed the cross shape with the word "herbivore" in it and its subtle messages. He told me that he wanted his creations to be a "conversation starter, not a conversation stopper." He and I then spent several more pleasant minutes talking about how to invite curiosity about the veg lifestyle rather than defensiveness.
That was the last calm moment of the whole weekend. In what seemed like minutes, both days of VegFest whirled past and were over. As I biked home from the convention center, I realized I’d taken it for granted. Only upon reflection did I marvel at the fact that every product and service offered in that entire room was vegan, that the whole event was about living a plant-based life, that thousands of people showed up to learn about a plant-based life, re-commit, commit for the first time, or start to dabble.
Just before Brenda Davis’s talk on Saturday, a woman rushed into the room carrying one of the giant Veg News bags filled with treats for new Northwest VEG members. As she tried to stash it under her chair, she turned to a stranger and said with exuberance, "There are so many interesting things to try here!"
I wondered if she was just talking about what was in her bag. Then I thought maybe she was referring to all of the interesting things to discover at VegFest as a whole. Now, however, I realize maybe she meant there are so many interesting things to try about a plant-based life.
Six VegFests so far, and still we’ve barely begun to uncover the adventure, satisfaction, and joy that comes with living the veg lifestyle.