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Guelph's First VegFest a Huge Success

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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  • A great turnout this past Sunday

    A great turnout this past Sunday

Written by Caroline Elworthy

The Guelph VegFest kicked off at 10am last Sunday at the Goldie Mill and Guelph Youth Concert Theatre. After an unsettling morning of threatening rain and downpour, the sun came out to welcome an estimated crowd of around, 2000 attendees who dropped by the all-day event that ran till 4:30 Sunday evening.

Although this is the first time VegFest has been held within Guelph it is hopeful that this will become an annual event, as the city cultivates a large population of environmentally conscious vegetarians and vegans alike. Various VegFests’ have been held throughout North America and work to connect local vegetarian and vegan suppliers, activists and restaurants to those within the community. Canadian cities have hosted a numerous festivals throughout the years, Toronto’s festival to be considered the largest in the world with over 40,000 in attendance.

Guelph’s own VegFest pledged “to celebrate the benefits of embracing a plant-based lifestyle and promote compassionate, sustainable and healthy living for all”. Through a variety of speakers, interactive displays and vendors selling entirely vegan products of everything from chocolate, pre-made recipes,  body care products and clothing products- Guelph’s first VegFest accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Environmental advocacy groups such as Environmental Defence Canada, Guelph Students for Environmental Change, The Suffering Eyes Project and various sanctuary organizations were also present with informative booths and ways for community members to get involved through petitions and information distribution

The festival also presented a number of speakers on topics ranging from vegan cooking, plant-based lifestyles and animal cruelty. Farm Sanctuary president and Co-Founder Gene Baur concluded the day as a keynote speaker with an invigorating lecture, encouraging a captivated audience of over 100 attendants to view their food not as an easily purchased commodity, but as a being with a desire to live and possess feelings as well.

Baur has been called “the conscious of the food movement” by TIME magazine, and as a vegan for over thirty years and founder of the animal protection organization Farm Sanctuaries, he certainly lives this ideal through his exemplary lifestyle and moving presentations. Baur urged the audience to take the grassroots ideals started at events such as VegFest, and to help slowly cultivate a society where food is considered for its integrity and health benefits.

Instigating a Hillside sense of family friendliness, VegFest hosted a “Vegan Mudpie” making station, bouncy castles and a Children’s stage with performers throughout the entire day. Performers such as Tricia Brubacher, Russell Scott and Jenny and the Step Cousins held concerts in the beautiful ruins of the Goldie Mill  Garden Stage throughout the days. An Outdoor Wellness Area was set up on a donations basis, offering Yoga classes and Thai Massages with all proceeds directed to animal sanctuaries

“I was very happily surprised by the turnout here today” says VegFest volunteer Rachel Godley. “I’ve been to the ones in Toronto before, but Guelph’s has a very close-knit community feel”.

Over 50 vendors were present. One particular  vegan chocolate company, the Open Door Chocolate Company works to integrate all levels of the community within their business, by employing attendees of Guelph’s charity Life Centre, within their business and equipping them with marketable skills and a living wage. Local Guelph restaurants such as Rawilicious, Magnolia Café, Planet Bean,and various vendors from the Guelph’s famers market were also stationed in the Goldie Mills ruins, demonstrating the vibrant passion for a sustainable lifestyle in Guelph. 

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