Tampa Bay’s 4th Annual VegFest, 2013, Beats the Heat and Packs In the Crowds!
By Stacy Perry
Tampa Bay’s Fourth Annual VegFest, 2013, was held in Tampa’s Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park. It was organized by Florida Voices for Animals, a non-profit formed to “raise awareness about animal cruelty issues” and to give the public ways to help. This was my first year to attend and it was pleasantly busy, conveniently happening on the same day as a nearby breast cancer walk was finishing. Hungry participants of the walk floated over to check out what was happening in the park — ahhhh, serendipity. Well-behaved dogs on leashes were invited to the event too.
There were several food booths on one end of the venue, selling Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, specialty popsicles, frozen banana ‘ice cream’, and baked goods. If there was something non-vegan at this festival, I didn’t see it.
We ate at the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopian) tent and chose 4 different items to share — gomen (collard greens with onions & garlic), Ye Kik Alecha (yellow split peas with onion, garlic, & ginger), Ye Misr Wot (red lentils seasoned with berbere), and Atkilt Alecha (carrots, potatoes, & green beans). All of it was served with Injera, a sour flat bread made from teff flour. I had come with the intention of eating immediately when we arrived, which we did, so that we’d be ready to eat again before leaving. But it was so hot we ended up ordering two giant drinks, Agua de Pina and Hibiscus Lemonade later in the day which completely eliminated the possibility of eating another bite. (both from Taco Bus — more on that in a later post).
On the opposite end of the venue, several volunteers were handing out free samples of other vegan treats, such as Earth Balance nut butters and salty snacks, Engine 2 products, Beanfield’s bean & rice chips, and Way Better Snacks — ALL of which are members of the Non-GMO Project and are certified vegan.
Located adjacent to the park is the Tampa Bay History Center, which provided the air-conditioned space (very important on this warm day) for the speakers of the day: George Eisman, RD, Dr. Neal Barnard (PCRM President), Ellen Jaffe Jones (runner, cookbook author), Dr. Milton R. Mills (medical doctor and Associate Director of Preventive Medicine for PCRM), Jane Velez-Mitchell (journalist), and Robert Cheeke (vegan athlete). Also taking place in the history center were film screenings: Vegucated, Planeat, The Paw Project, and Bethany’s Story. Dogs were even allowed in the center on this particular day.
There were also four cooking demonstrations taking place throughout the day, each lasting about one hour, and taking place in a tented area outside with ample seating.
Animal rescue operations were well-represented at this festival. Everything from small pet rescue (guinea pigs and bunnies) to parrot rescue to large farm animal rescue. WMNF radio, a commercial-free station that airs a program called “Talking Animals” was there promoting the show. (You can listen to this station, and therefore this particular show, anywhere in the country by visiting WMNF.org.) Of course, many other vendors were there…too numerous to mention.
Live musicians played throughout the day, there was an activity area for the children, and recycle bins were placed next to each trash receptacle. Overall, this VegFest was well-planned, well-funded, well-organized…WELL DONE!
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