Festival celebrates vegan food, culture

By J_Howard

Vegetables, belly dancers and organic underwear have little in common, but combine these three and Chicago VeganMania comes to life.

At the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 W. Blackhawk St., things were greener than usual. As Lakeview resident Nicole Moore, 28, dressed in a costume decorated with leafy greens, wandered down the aisles of the organic and environmentally friendly marketplace booths, she showed off her vegan pride at the one-day VeganMania celebration on Oct. 9.

“I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to praise and pay tribute to vegans,” Moore said. “The smell of wilting lettuce would obviously turn a lot of people off but

not me.”

The festival, in its second year, included chef demonstrations, a variety of speakers on veganism, medical professionals,bands, performances and a marketplace of vegan-friendly products.

Moore was among 1,600 participants who came to the festival eager to share their passion for veganism. John Beske, a lead coordinator of the event, said it is time for vegans to celebrate who they are.

“There have always been festivals for every kind of community you can think of,” Beske said. “It just seemed like the time to show [the vegan culture] off.”

Linda Van Horn, professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University, said veganism is primarily an avoidance of animal products in favor of a diet filled with vegetables, fruits and grains.

“While it is totally possible to be a nutritious vegan, it requires knowledge and understanding of how to combine certain foods in order to achieve nutrient adequacy,” Van Horn said.

The festival was not exclusively for vegans. Beske said he wanted to share the vegan community’s culture with the public.

“You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” Beske said. “It’s a chance to get to know this community.”

Jessica Fujan said she volunteered at VeganMania because she enjoys giving back to the community. Fujan is a vegetarian, not a vegan—her diet includes some dairy and honey—but she embraced the community that day.

“I do believe there is a way to procure dairy products or honey in a way that is ethical and isn’t necessarily dangerous to the health and well being of animals,” Fujan said.

After volunteering near the front door, Fujan said she was surprised at the large turnout for VeganMania and the attendees’ dedication.

The food court was the central point of the event, with different restaurants offering creative vegan cuisine, such as macaroni and “cheese,” cupcakes, gyros and pizza.

A.J. Ableman, sophomore photography major at Columbia, said she enjoyed trying all of the options. Ableman said her favorite food at the event was the vegan chocolate and toffee.

The main stage hosted performancesfrom musicians to belly dancers for participants to watch as they tasted their selections from the food court. Beske said the entertainment varied, but one or all members of the team were vegan.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie in the air,” Fujan said. “Everyone can tell there is a potential friend waiting within a two-foot radius.”