What are you doing this weekend? Unless you said “attending the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival on Sunday, April 3rd,” your answer is wrong. (Don’t confuse this event with the similarly named NYC VegFest, which will be held in October.)
I checked in with the organizers of the event, Sarah Gross and Nira Paliwoda, and a few of the presenters and attendees to answer my most burning questions about this vegan food free-for-all, hosted from 10am to 6pm at the Altman Building, 135 W. 18th Street (Between 6th and 7th Avenues). Spoiler alert: it’s going to be a day full of vegan workshops, presentations, and doughnut-eating contests! Aren’t you glad you cleared your calendar?
SuperVegan: What is the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival?
Sarah Gross, NYCVFF co-organizer: The NYCVFF is the first annual vegetarian food festival in New York City. Most of [the vendors are] food product [manufacturers] and restaurants, but we also have clothing and non-profit organizations and even fitness vendors. The festival will also have two stages of entertainment, including speakers Dr. Neal Barnard and best-selling author Victoria Moran. We will be featuring a yoga demonstration, a dance performance, a donut-eating contest, and a cupcake-eating contest.
Nira Paliwoda, NYCVFF co-organizer: This is a full-day event in which we are highlighting different vegetarian and vegan products, restaurants, and lifestyles. We also have a full series of speakers and demonstrations–it’s designed to be an informational, educational day. We have over 70 vendors sharing food and products, including Coconut Bliss, Foodswings, V-Spot, Mercy For Animals, and many, many more. [A complete list of vendors is available on the NYCVFF website.] We want people to walk away from this event not only educated about what vegetarian food is out there, but why they should adopt a vegan lifestyle.
SV: What was the impetus behind starting the festival?
SG: All these other cities around the countries have had vegetarian food festivals for years, and here’s New York City, one of the biggest food cities in the world, with no veg fest! I have talked about this with friends and have been traveling to other festivals for so long that when I met Nira, my partner-in-planning, I approached her with this idea. She was game, and now, here we are.
SV: Who should attend the NYCVFF?
SG: We really wanted to make [the NYCVFF] fun and inviting not only for vegetarians and vegans, but we also wanted to attract foodies and the veg-curious and just make [veganism] look like a very do-able, easy, fun lifestyle.
NP: Our audience is everybody. We have something for everyone at the festival, including presentations for and about families and children, food sampling, nutrition information, and educational outreach materials. People who have already adopted a vegan lifestyle or those who are aspiring to do so will find something here for them.
SV: How many people do you expect?
SG: We are expecting at least 5,000 people (so get there early!). Admission is free, though we do also have VIP tickets available if people want to skip the line. VIP ticketholders also get priority access to speakers and goodie bags.
SV: What will we do when we get to the festival?
SG: The venue has two floors: the basement level will host the speakers while the ground floor will have the interactive performances, food, and all of the vendors. We kind of interspersed the food with the non-profits with the book signings so that there is a good mix for everyone. The Cinnamon Snail will be parking its food truck outside of the venue as well!
SV: Why are you excited about the NYCVFF?
NP: I’m excited about the NYCVFF because I, personally, am excited to learn about the vegan lifestyle. The more I have worked on this event and learned about veganism, the more questions I have, so I am really excited to see this festival develop from an idea into a reality. And I’m always thrilled to see people having a good time.
Terry Hope Romero, the Vegan Latina: I’ve attended vegan food festivals all over the world (from Boston to Toronto to Paris), and everyone there always asked me why NYC doesn’t have a great big festival to call their own…well, ask no more, world! I’m so excited that the best vegan-friendly city has arrived to the party at last. The ladies of the NYCVFF have worked their butts off to bring NYC a great fest, so please come on by this Sunday; and I’m making seitan & potato tacos, so get over here pronto!
Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House: The NY Vegetarian Food Festival has the potential to wake up non-vegans to the absolute deliciousness of cruelty-free food. I truly can’t wait to be there, surrounded by vegan “family” and scrumptious vegan food. And I feel so privileged to be presenting “Let the Doughnut Do the Talking: Food as Activism,” which will focus on how each of us can go beyond boycotting cruelty by choosing to eat a plant-based diet, and easily speak up for animals by spreading compassion, cupcake in hand.
Laura and Megan of Vegansaurus: We’ve got our eating pants out and ready for stretching at this weekend’s NYCVFF! We’re going to chow down on everything in sight, so you better hide your kids, hide your wife. We’re also psyched to meet awesome veg and veg-curious folks, learn more about local animal-loving non-profits, support Empty Cages Collective, and freak to any and all music.