By Mark Wachtler
July 19, 2014. Naperville, IL. (ONN) It’s that time of year again. Returning for its 9th year in a row, Veggie Fest is the largest vegetarian festival in Illinois and one of the biggest and most popular in all of North America. For two days in Naperville, vegetarians and vegetable lovers alike can come out and learn more about healthy eating and healthy living. There’s fun for the whole family, live music and even the Vegetarian Challenge.
Last year, Veggie Fest saw over 25,000 visitors walk through the grounds of Naperville’s Science of Spirituality Meditation Center. Thanks to the passion and hard work of over 500 festival volunteers from around the world, the annual event was another rousing success. This year, Veggie Fest is expected to be even better.
Like every year, Veggie Fest is a family friendly event with plenty to do for the whole family. Kids have an entire section of the grounds set aside specifically for their enjoyment. The children’s tent is always managed by professional educators and stocked with educational games, crafts, clowns and other fun activities that are perfect for parents and kids to play together and discuss the importance of vegetables.
The fun includes face painting, interactive games, healthy snacks, naturally flavored snow cones and more. Another popular activity is the ‘photo fun’ section. Parents and kids can take their pictures in a veggie-setting. Entertainment in the children’s area also includes non-stop musical performances by professional entertainers geared specially for the kids. And for those kids with a little too much energy, the Kids Tent is located directly next to the Family Meditation Tent.
The highlight of the two-day festival is always the daily Veggie-Kids Parade. Once each evening on both Saturday and Sunday, children aged 0-16 are encouraged to dress up like their favorite vegetable or animal and parade through the festival grounds in the always fun procession. Prizes are awarded to all parade participants. Pictures from previous years’ Veggie Fests show that kids aren’t the only ones who like to dress up like vegetables for this annual ritual. So if any of you adults want to dress up like vegetables too, you probably won’t be the only ones.
Booths, experts and demonstrations
Some of the attractions that make Veggie Fest one of the largest vegetarian and vegetable festivals in North America are the more than 100 vendor booths. Some provide tips, booklets or instruction on food preparation. Others provide an arsenal of vegetarian recipes. Even more offer hard to find veggie-related products and services. And more still provide recurring demonstrations and seminars on virtually every topic related to overall good health, but especially vegetables and healthy eating.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, a vegan, a naturalist, an animal-lover or you just like safe, healthy and organic fresh foods, Veggie Fest brings together some of the most successful experts in North America and some of the biggest names in the ever-growing healthy and organic foods category. This year’s festival is no different, featuring talks and demonstrations by professional chefs, restaurant owners and cookbook authors. The two-day event is headlined by Karyn Calabrese, owner of three Chicago vegetarian restaurants, a spa and always a favorite due to her unbelievably youthful good looks. The 66-year-old credits healthy eating as her fountain of youth.
Other demonstrations, some including free samples, will be offered on a host of topics including eating raw, organic, gluten-free, soulfully, defensively, allergy-free, and even spicy. Whole Foods will be there on behalf of organic retailers. And Nature’s Path will be on hand representing organic manufacturers. Also participating is Illinois’ own Manna Organics, a supplier, baker and manufacturer of organic and gluten-free foods and ingredients.
Music and speakers
Divided up between the Main Tent and the Chapel, a non-stop line-up of speakers will be giving presentations on a wide assortment of topics, all related to healthy eating or healthy living. Just some of the themes include helping kids become healthy eaters, environmental sustainability, meditation, history of vegetarianism, strengthening the immune system, organic gardening, and cancer prevention.
Performing throughout the festival will also be musical acts. They include V. Holmes “A Tribute to the Motown Greats”, The Giving Tree Band, reggae band Gizzae, Caribe Son Internacional, vegan singer-songwriter ‘Zach’, and our favorite here at the Illinois Herald and a past Veggie Fest headliner - vegan opera and folksinger Marisa Buchheit, who also happens to be Miss Illinois 2014. Your author had the pleasure of reporting on Buchheit’s participation at Veggie Fest 2012 for Examiner.com, back when she was just Miss Chicago and a hopeful singer-songwriter. We also happily covered Veggie Fest 2013 from our sister publication Whiteout Press last year.
Last but not least, is the famous ‘Vegetarian Challenge’. Do you have what it takes to eat vegetarian for a 14-day test? Or are you afraid you might just see how healthy and great you look and feel? As part of the Vegetarian Challenge, the organizers of Veggie Fest provide all those willing to go vegetarian for two weeks a helpful goodie bag, recipes, tips and even some moral support to help them get started.
Veggie Fest is held on the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Meditation Center on Naperville-Wheaton Road in Naperville, IL. Free parking is provided. The festival runs August 9th and 10th from 11am to 8pm. For more information, visit VeggieFestChicago.com.
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