The Clarion

Vegan Fest

Annual celebration of animal-free diets came to Madison College on September 8th

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Let me start by saying I am not a vegan. I adore animals and do as much as I can to help animals via fostering and adoption fundraising, but personally, my body and lifestyle both prevent me from cutting meat out of my diet.

In 2015, my husband, who is a fit vegan with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, asked me to join him in attending Vegan Fest. Back then, it was held at The Alliant Energy Center. He told me there were speakers to listen to and vendors to browse, similar to any type of convention (much like the gaming ones we are so fond of). He also mentioned they had a menu of vegan food to sample from as well. I have to admit right now, even with the promise of delicious food, I wasn’t quite excited about going. I am so glad that I did.

That first year, I sat at rapt attention as I listened to how milk was made and processed in one panel, and learned all about cheese in another. In the vendor hall we sampled and purchased vegan hot sauces and kimchi, something I never even liked before. And then there was the food. I don’t think I’d been so excited about food before, not just because it was delicious, but because I was eating food that looked and tasted so similar to meat that it shocked me. They even had “chicken” wings that had the skin on them that came with a “ranch” dipping sauce, all of which contained no animal products whatsoever.

Three years later, now I’m the one asking my husband if we were attending Vegan Fest. This year it was held on Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and instead of its normal location, the still free event moved to none other than our own Truax campus of Madison College. This was, in my opinion, a very wise move.

The atmosphere in previous years was too cold and open. The Alliant Energy Center is a great venue for many things, but Vegan Fest needed a warmer, more professional location, and Madison College’s Truax campus was a perfect fit. The panels were held in rooms equipped with everything the speakers needed along with comfortable chairs for the audience and perfectly sized projection screens. The school atmosphere simply made the presentations feel more comfortable.

In addition to having the perfect places for the panels, Truax’s cafeteria held the food vendors, giving them all exactly what they need to prepare and serve the meals they provided. While the set up was wonderful, I did notice that a few of the food vendors were quite unprepared for sales. Green Owl, for example, has some of my favorite vegan food, along with the “chicken” wings I mentioned, but my order was forgotten and mixed up and they almost didn’t take my credit card payment regardless of their sign stating that form of payment was accepted.

Outside of the confusion at a couple booths, which can definitely be sorted out by preparing staff better in advance, the only other complaint I had about Vegan Fest was that it was too quiet. I feel that there could have been some music playing over the speakers to wake people up a bit more and get them excited about the event. In addition, a few more volunteers should be positioned to help visitors, especially those who haven’t been to the Truax campus before, get from the entrance to the cafeteria and panels.

Otherwise, the panels were informative, the food was delicious, and we left very satisfied. I even learned about Cedar Teeth, a rising company that makes and currently sells vegan pizzas at Willy Street Co-op and Metcalfe’s. They offered two different sandwiches at Vegan Fest that were absolutely fantastic. I spoke with the owner’s husband for a bit and discovered they are hoping to have even more meatless options available in Madison’s stores.

If you’re interested or just on the fence about attending, check out their website at madisonveganfest.org where they list vendors, panels, and food menus in advance.

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or curious about the meatless lifestyles, make sure you check out Vegan Fest next year. It is an impressive event that simply informs and doesn’t force veganism on anyone.

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Vegan Fest