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Twin Cities Veg Fest 2014: Fun, Food, and Compassion

A bird's eye view of the exhibitor hall.

Sunday’s third annual Twin Cities Veg Fest was a lot of fun and a lot of work. As usual, I was nervous about the event. This is Compassionate Action for Animals’ largest event. Those of us who planned the event invested months of effort into it, and we want this event to go well for ourselves, but more importantly, for the animals on whose behalf we do this work!

Well, my fears were (as usual) for naught. The event was a smashing success, with around 2,300 people coming to try delicious vegan food, learn more about animal issues, and celebrate compassion. We had a long line of people even before we opened, which was good, because Minneapolis city council member Cam Gordon came by to read his Meatless Monday proclamation for Minneapolis. We’re so grateful to Cam for his support on this crucial campaign.

Once we opened the doors, the flood started. Based on the number of bags we gave out, more than 500 people entered in the first hour alone. Needless to say, it was crowded, and there were lines for all the delicious samples and food to buy. I was particularly excited to try a new donut from Glam Doll Donuts. They had a maple bacon donut with vegan bacon from The Herbivorous Butcher. It was delicious.

I also sampled some vegan cheesecake from Muddy Paws Cheesecake. If you haven’t tried their products before, you’re missing out. They can make almost every single one of their flavors vegan. I shared a slice of Chocolate Decadence with my wife and it sure lived up to its name!

I was thrilled with the cooking demos at this year’s festival. We’ve talked about this in past years, but we never felt like we had the resources to include them along with everything else. This year, we made them a priority and they were a big hit. Every session was done in front of a packed room, with latecomers getting stuck outside the door (sorry). I was lucky to catch some of Mistress Ginger‘s demo and her amazing food samples. What a great entertainer she is! Not only was she making delicious food, but she managed to keep the audience engaged and laughing the whole time.

And as usual, our speakers delivered. I sat down to listen to Taylor Radig’s powerfully moving presentation about her time as undercover investigator. She told us first hand of the terrible cruelty that animals on factory farms endure. It was tough to hear, but as tough it is for us, it’s infinitely worse for the animals she told us about. Fortunately, events like Twin Cities Veg Fest are helping us all move toward a more compassionate world.

Of course, no event is perfect. It was definitely too crowded, and I’m sure all of you will be happy to hear that this was our last year at Coffman. We’ve very clearly outgrown the venue, both in terms of exhibitors and attendees, and it’s time to move on. This is the kind of problem we like to have, though. Next year we hope to find a venue that lets us have at least some access to the outdoors. You told us that on a nice day you want to be outside, and we hear you.

I’d like to thank all of our speakers, cooking instructors, and volunteers. All of these people came out to support this event because of their belief that animals matter, and we truly appreciate their hard work and decication. Finally, a special thank you to all of my fellow planning committee members. Planning an event of this size is a truly epic task, and everyone on the committee worked diligently over the past year to pull it off. How amazing is it that people would commit such energy and time to this work for just the satisfaction of seeing it done? Even more amazing, some of these folks will sign up to do it all over again next year, just as they have for several years running.

I’m inspired and humbled to know so many people willing to go to such great lengths on behalf of animals. I’m also inspired to see how many people joined us at Sunday’s event. The endeavor to give animals the respect and compassion they deserve has been going on for many years, but I can see a day in the future when that endeavor has been completed. Events like Twin Cities Veg Fest get us a few steps closer to that day, and I’m happy I could help make it happen.

Dave Rolsky Twin Cities Veg Fest Committee Chair

Twin Cities Veg Fest in City Pages and on Fox 9 News

Punk Rawk Labs (the makers of fine vegan cheese) will be one of the many exhibitors at Sunday's festival.

Word has gotten out! Twin Cities Veg Fest is happening this Sunday, September 28, 10:00am – 4:00pm at Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. This family-friendly festival is free to attend and offers vegan food, cooking demonstrations, speaker presentations, a variety of exhibitors and more!

We expect to draw 2,500 attendees to our third annual Twin Cities Veg Fest, open to vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike. Record numbers! The popularity of this event is evident in some of the press we’ve been receiving:

City Pages recently posted a glowing preview of what you can find at the festival and said that “you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy.”

Also, one of our four chefs who will be giving a cooking demo at the festival made an appearance on Fox 9 News last week. Mistress Ginger showed how to make a Tie-the-Knot Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie and managed to veganize anchorman Tom Butler in the process. The self-proclaimed “pink-haired showgirl” will be showing how to prepare three simple yet delicious recipes from her cookbook at the festival at 3pm.

If you can’t make it to the festival on Sunday, be sure to tune in to Fox 9 News at 10:15am that morning as Elise Armani, a CAA volunteer leader, gives a three-minute interview about the exciting new Meatless Monday proclamation for Minneapolis.

What’s more, the Twin Cities Veg Fest Facebook page has nearly 10,000 likes! We are trying to make it to 10,000 by Sunday. Please visit the page, “like” it if you haven’t already, and then share it with your friends.

And speaking of your friends, you had just better bring them to the festival on Sunday. Come one, come all! Come, celebrate compassion!

 

Meatless Monday Proclamation for Minneapolis!

Cam Gordon

Cam Gordon, a member of the Minneapolis City Council, recently issued a proclamation urging residents to observe Monday as “Meatless Monday” to improve their health, protect animals, and protect the environment. The proclamation recognizes that if Minneapolis residents ate meat-free just one day a week, they would save more than 1.2 million animals from factory farms each year and support the city’s efforts to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions.

Cam is a longtime vegetarian and has been a member of the Minneapolis City Council since 2006. In his time on the City Council, Cam has focused on ecological sustainability, nonviolence, grassroots democracy, and social economic justice. Cam is the most recent city official to support Meatless Monday, an international campaign aimed at reducing our carbon footprint and lowering rates of preventable chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Stop by Twin Cities Veg Fest this weekend to learn more about Meatless Monday. Cam will announce the proclamation at 9:45am by the entrance to the Great Hall in Coffman Memorial Union. At the festival, you’ll have the opportunity to sample delicious vegan food and learn about how you can easily incorporate meatless meals into your weekly routine.

How are you getting to Twin Cities Veg Fest?

Coffman

Twin Cities Veg Fest is coming up on Sunday, September 28, and do you know how you’re getting there?

First, where is it? Again this year, the festival will be held on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in Coffman Memorial Union, located at 300 Washington Avenue Southeast in Minneapolis, MN 55455. You can walk, bike, or use transit instead of driving to the festival. Please see maps and directions from the University of Minnesota’s website.

Driving and Parking

We’ve created a custom Google Map for the festival that includes driving paths from the nearest highways. If you’d like to plot your own course, set your GPS for 300 Washington Ave SE in Minneapolis.We recommend parking in the East River Road Garage behind Coffman Union. Take the elevator to the top floor then head across the nearest street and up the stairs to Coffman.

Transit

You can reach the university campus from many different directions by using public transit, including the Green Line of the light rail system and the bus, including the 2, 3, 6, and 16. Check out the Metro Transit website for a trip planner, maps, and schedules. Your destination for the trip planner is 300 Washington Ave SE in Minneapolis. Please note that express routes are not available on the weekends.

Biking

Biking to the university is easy and there are many bike racks by Coffman Union. See the UMN biking info page for details, including maps showing available bike lanes.

However you get there, just travel safely and look forward to all the Twin Cities Veg Fest has to offer. The festival begins at 10:00am and goes until 4:00pm. We look foward to seeing you there.

 

 

Twin Cities Veg Fest is for EVERYONE!

Twin Cities Veg Fest

Twin Cities Veg Fest is happening on this coming Sunday, September 28, 10:00am – 4:00pm at Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota. This festival is truly for everyone. Sharing the wonders of all things vegan, we welcome not only those who consider themselves vegan or vegetarian but also (and most enthusiastically!) omnivores.

The festival is free and designed to be fun. We want as many people to be there and to experience how choosing vegan food doesn’t have to mean depriving one’s self of nourishing sustenance, sensory pleasures, or a joyful community. We have all of those things in a big way, as the festival goes to show.

We are offering an array of activities at the event, and attendees can pick and choose what they’d like to experience. Choose from:

  • Food, food, and more vegan food, either free samples or larger meals for purchase.
  • Cooking demos geared for those new to vegan cooking, with foods likely to appeal to the omnivore palette.
  • Speaker presentations ranging from information nutrition basics to harrowing stories from a former factory farm investigator.
  • Numerous exhibitors, all representing like-minded organizations and companies.
  • Pay-per-view. Watch a five-minute video about factory farming in exchange for a dollar.
  • And more!

Our most recent edition of our monthly podcast Exploring Veg reveals how one omnivore enjoyed last year’s event. In fact, she now considers herself a devotee of the nondairy cheese from Punk Rawk Labs, a local company who was a big hit at last year’s event and will be exhibiting again this year.

Remember, Twin Cities Veg Fest is free to attend! If you’re veg, bring your omnivore friends and family. They’ll be welcomed and have much to explore. If you’re omnivore, please join us and discover some wonderful new options, some of the ways to expand your diet to include more plant-based foods. All of us can come together at Twin Cities Veg Fest to discover and appreciate how varied and vibrant our compassionate community can be.

 

One Girl, Two Cities Goes Veg on September 9th!

One Girl, Two Cities image

CAA volunteer Laura Van Zandt is not only a volunteer for Compassionate Action for Animals, but she’s also a host of the popular internet broadcast series One Girl, Two Cities. During the show on September 9, Laura will talk to some key figures about the upcoming Twin Cities Veg Fest, including festival planning committee members Unny Nambudiripad and Shannon Kimball. She’ll also be talking to the folks from The Herbivorous Butcher and Comfort Candy, two vegan food vendors who’ll be showcasing their cruelty-free eats at the festival.

RSVP to the Facebook event, share with your friends, and then tune in to learn all about Twin Cities Veg Fest. Watch it live on the internet broadcast station Sizzlin 99.9. If you aren’t available to listen to the live broadcast, a podcast version will be available on iTunes the next day.

One Girl, Two Cities airs live every Tuesday from 7:00 – 8:00pm on Sizzlin 99.9.

Volunteer for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2014!

Volunteer for Twin Cities Veg Fest!

We need your help to make Twin Cities Veg Fest a success. Join our team of volunteers to make this year’s festival the best one yet.

Here’s an overview of the many ways that you can get involved:

Before the Festival

Help us with marketing the festival. From the comfort of your home, you can help us to promote the festival online via social media. Also, join us for one of our fun postering parties and help us distribute posters and flyers in the Twin Cities area and on the University of Minnesota campus. (Free lunch is provided!)

Closer to the Event

Join us on the evening of Thursday, September 25 at the CAA office to help us assemble our swag bags for attendees. Also, we’ll need assistance loading the equipment to bring to Coffman Memorial Union on Saturday, September 27, the evening before the festival.

On the Day of the Festival

On Sunday, September 28, we’ll need lots of volunteers for the event to run smoothly. You can check out the Twin Cities Veg Fest website for more information on these volunteer positions.

  • Setup
  • Speaker Monitor
  • Maintenance
  • CAA Table
  • Veg Fest Table
  • Paid Per View Table
  • Food GiveawayTable
  • Greeters
  • Floater
  • Tech Support
  • Cooking Demo Helpers
  • Kids Area Helpers
  • Cleanup
  • Evening Transport

After the Festival

We’ll need help with data entry and cleaning our office. Help us wrap things up!

Why Volunteer

All of these volunteer positions offer you an opportunity to be a part of the CAA team. You’ll get to meet others who care about the same issues, and together we can nurture a compassionate community here in the Twin Cities. What’s more, if you volunteer on the day of the festival, you’ll receive a free Twin Cities Veg Fest shirt!

For more information about any of the these volunteer opportunities, visit the Twin Cities Veg Fest website. If you’d like to help, contact us at volunteer@tcvegfest.com.

 

Throwback Thursday: Remembering Why I Went Vegan

Justin and a chicken

Compassionate Action for Animals recently hosted a tour of Chicken Run Rescue, a chicken sanctuary in Minneapolis. Being on staff for CAA, I went along. Of course, I was also interested in seeing the chickens. I had been to a farm animal sanctuary once before, but it had been a long time since I had been up close and personal with these less familiar species of animals. I live with two cats, and I’m very familiar with their ways. But chickens, cows, turkeys, goats — they’re all entirely different species and represented by a myriad of individuals who are each so fun and fascinating to get to know in person.

At the sanctuary, I got to hold one chicken who stayed on my lap for a few minutes, or at least long enough for this picture to be taken. This little guy, a rooster named Obie, is an “ornamental” or designer chicken, bred to be pretty, funny, or cute. The physical abnormalities bred into him can create health problems that prevent him from being able to survive in the wild. For example, Obie has extra toes and his foot feathers often break, bleed, and get infected.

Holding Obie reminded me of holding one of my cats. They’re about the same size. They’re both soft, though one has feathers and the other has fur. And they’re both warm; their hearts beat just the same. Some like to be held more than others, but, unlike a cat, the chickens don’t exactly jump off your lap; they fly off! (The flapping can be a little startling.)

A few days after the visit to the sanctuary, I was going to post some fun “Throwback Thursday” picture on Facebook, and I found this picture from 1994 of me with my cat So-hi. Yes, I had some of my senior pictures taken with my cat. I remember So-hi as a friend. During my difficult youth when I felt like an outsider in many ways, I felt an unconditional love and acceptance from So-hi that I rarely found elsewhere.

Justin and So-hi in 1994
Justin and So-hi in 1994

Yet, while I was so fond of my cat So-hi, I was regularly eating chickens, those chickens who, like cats, can feel and have desires. They too have a beating heart and a will to live. I didn’t make this connection until many years later, when I was 24 and my beloved So-hi passed away in a house fire. I felt very sad about her death and would occasionally wake in the middle of the night after dreaming that she was meowing at my bedroom door as she once had.

Not long after, I was cooking for myself and made the connection. Handling the raw chicken flesh, something didn’t feel right. I started to wonder how my cat So-hi was essentially any different from from this chicken I was about to eat. How can I grieve for the death of one but then pay for the death of the other?

In that moment of asking the question, I had a choice. I could strive to answer the question, or I could suppress the question. I chose to answer it, which inevitably led me to moving towards a plant-based diet.

Of course, this part of my story — how I transitioned to going vegan — is a story unto itself. But when I made this connection between the animals I called friends and the animals I called food, I had a compelling impetus for change. Supported by my intention to follow my heart, to live from love, and to be kind, I made my way to making more compassionate food choices.

Today is “Throwback Thursday,” and I look at these pictures side-by-side. The parallels are evident now, but they weren’t always so clear. Twenty years have passed, and my vision of the world has changed dramatically. Over that time, I’ve widened my circle of compassion.

Thankfully, we have more and more resources available to help support our awakening to these parallels between the pets we adore and animals we eat. From farm animal sanctuaries like Chicken Run Rescue to undercover investigations posted on social media, we are surrounded with reminders that all animals, not just our dogs and cats, deserve compassion and respect. Each of them can feel. Each of them has desires. Each of them has a beating heart and a will to live.

Speakers for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2014!

Taylor Radig

This year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest offers a number of moving presentations by both local figures in the movement and visiting speakers from out of town. These presentations cover the gamut from informative seminars on plant-based nutrition to eye-opening discourse on the treatment of animals in religion to moving firsthand accounts of what happens on factory farms.

The speakers include:

  • Mark Berkson, Ph.D., Professor and Chair in the Department of Religion at Hamline University
  • Kristina DeMuth, registered dietician
  • Erica Meier, Executive Director, Compassion Over Killing
  • Taylor Radig, former undercover investigator
  • Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection, Humane Society of the United States

Here’s a bit more about what you can expect from a few of them:

For a glimpse of Paul Shapiro’s talk, listen to our recent podcast interview and learn why he thinks the animal protection movement is winning, what led him to going vegan, and what was the most influential presentation on the subject of farm animal protection that he ever heard.

Paul Shapiro
Paul Shapiro

Professor Mark Berkson, a local leader in the animal advocacy community, will be exploring the attitudes toward and treatment of non-human animals in a number of the world’s major religious traditions, including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.

Former undercover investigator Taylor Radig was the most recent addition to the schedule. Those of us who attended the Animal Rights National Conference last month got to hear Taylor Radig speak about her experience as an undercover investigator filming animal abuse on factory farms. We were profoundly moved by Taylor’s firsthand account of the cruelty she witnessed and thought her powerful story should be shared with our Twin Cities community.

Stayed tuned for blog posts previewing what Kristina DuMuth and Erica Meier will present at the festival.

We are excited to bring these five amazing speakers to Twin Cities Veg Fest this year. Since we expect well over 2,000 people to attend the festival, these presentations will reach many new people with a message of compassion.

The festival is free to attend and will take place on Sunday, September 28, 2014 from 10:00am to 4:00pm at Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To hear more speakers, register for Their Lives, Our Voices, an animal advocacy conference happening on Saturday, September 27, the day before the festival.

Minnesota State Fair – Vegan Guide

corn on the cob

This article was originally featured on the blog Accidentally Meatless on September 2, 2013.

When my fiance decided to stop eating animals and animal products (go vegan), we thought vegan pickings would be slim at the “Great Minnesota Get Together” (State Fair). To our delight, blogger Midwest Vaygun had our back. She had several years of “gorging” at the state fair in the name of providing vegans a list of fair food options. Thank goodness for upstanding Minnesotans willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of our communities. Also, thank you to my parents, friends, and fiance who helped compile the list below. With that said, please do confirm for yourselves that these dishes are vegan and note this list is not comprehensive. In other words, we got full!

Minnesota State Fair Food Guide for Vegans

Our Top Five

There’s a lot to do at the fair, but these delectable treats are worth the $12 entrance ticket alone!

1. Corn Roast (located near the Grandstand) Hold the butter, enjoy nature’s food on a stick in its summer glory. This is a perennial favorite of many.

2. Produce Exchange’s Sweet Dreams Peach (located across the street from the International Bazaar) Before you judge this as not adequately deep-fried or on-a-stick to qualify as fair food, I dare you to tell me you’ve had a better peach. I dream of these peaches all year. Thus, they are aptly named.

3. Fresh French Fries (2 locations: between Adventure land and the Mighty Midway and in front of the Senior Center, west of the Agriculture building) Deep-fried, crisp salty goodness in a bucket. Made with fresh potatoes. There are many imitators, but none compare. The owners of these stands are probably millionaires because the crowds who line up for this must include anyone who likes french fries.

4. Harry Singh’s Vegetarian Roti with Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce (southeast corner of the Food Building) Mild mannered when wrapped in its warm roti shell, this bad boy up  is delicious with a splash of the hottest hot sauce you’ve probably ever had. With the already flavorful curried chickpeas, this is a great meal option. We liked it better than the doubles, but they’re cheaper and smaller if you just want a taste.

5. MN Apples’ Frozen Cider Pop and Fresh Apple Sauce (in the west hall of the Agriculture building) The State Fair is one last summer party before kids head back to school and the leaves start to change. Make the transition to Fall a little more comforting with this refreshing Mr. Freeze-popsicle cider that serves as a bridge between the seasons. And the apple sauce is better than anything you’ll find in a jar at the store. Perfectly portioned and priced at less than $2 each.

Honorable Mention:

Farmer’s Union’s Iced Coffee with a Splash of Soy Milk (near the front gate, west side of Dan Patch) If you get to the Fair early or need a caffeine boost, the Farmer’s Union booth serves J&S Bean Factory coffee which tastes great and offers Pacific Natural Foods’ barista blend soy milk (my favorite non-dairy milk for coffee drinks)

The Goods

We liked but just didn’t love these options.

1. Strawberries & Creme (Randall and Underwood near the kidway) We couldn’t believe our eyes, but the staff confirmed that the whipping cream is nondairy. The strawberries were slightly tart and cool with a generous dollop of rich, sweet nondairy cream.

2. French Meadows Brown Sugar Scone (Carnes and Underwood) It was more flat than the other scones, almost cookie-like. The flavor was good and made us hope they carry it in store year-round. I don’t suspect it will ever have the crazed following that leads to long lines waiting for the cronut-doussiant, but you can at least people watch the line while enjoying the scone and a coffee.

3. Hamline Dining Hall Pomegranate Pizzazz Sorbet (near the Visitor Center on Dan Patch) Refreshing and cool with the iconic Izzy’s mini-scoop on top. Service was inconsistent, but the sorbet was great. Izzy’s is a favorite local ice cream shop that offers soy ice cream and sorbet options for vegans.

4. Spring Grove Sodas Rhu-berry Soda (on Nelson near the DNR building) We Minnesotans love our rhubarb, but this soda was a little sweeter than we hoped. Heavy Table, which runs a State Fair food tour (not vegan) raves about the lemon sour and thought the rhu-berry and lemon sodas were good offerings.

Vegan Mecca: International Bazaar

You’re more likely to score vegan options if you check out the International Bazaar, located on the south side of the fairgrounds. Here are a few tantalizing options:

1. Island Noodles (located in the last row near the stage in the bazaar) Wok-fried soba noodles in a garlic ginger sauce with lots of veggies are a solid meal option. Major bonus points for slicing fresh veggies into each batch. Mmmm…wok-fried broccoli.

2. Cinnamon Roasted Almonds (located a few stalls down from Island Noodles) They were handing out samples and claiming nondairy and gluten-free. If you’re nuts for nuts, give them a try but ask about honey first.

3. St. Martin’s Olives’ Olives on a Stick (same row further from the stage) More vegan-friendly food on a stick. They’re olives stuffed with garlic, peppers, onions and sun-dried tomatoes.

4. Holy Land (Southeast corner of the International Bazaar) They offer a ton of options including falafel, tabbouli, hummus, grape leaves, and veggie samosas. Solid food and very generous portions.

5. Los Ocampos Guacamole and Chips (on the eastern edge of the International Bazaar) The guacamole is served in a generous two-thirds cup portion freshly made with lime, tomatoes, onions, and avocados. If you go earlier in the fair, you’ll see Burrito Mercado in this spot. They offer a chili and lime dusted fresh mango on a stick. We’ve heard it’s phenomenal.

The Fried

I am not crazy about fried foods. It seems that this makes me an anomaly at the fair. Not to bias the choices, I offer a separate category for the fried items here.

1. Preferred Pickles’ Fried Pickles (southwest corner of Dan Patch and Liggett near the Mighty Midway) Cajun and perfect offerings are vegan if you hold on the ranch dipping sauce. We didn’t check to see if the chocolate dipping sauce was vegan because that combo didn’t sound good anyway. The hot sauce was a tasty addition.

2. Sonny’s Spiral Spuds’ Potato on a Stick (northwest corner of the Food Building) Vegan on a stick option! Another fun way to eat a fried potato, but if you’re only going to do one potato option make it the french fries. If you come with an army, get the potato tornado which is a massive amount of potatoes on a stick and definitely made to share.

Others we didn’t try

Even with a team of six hungry people, you’re not going to get through all the fair’s options.

1. Dole Whip (located across the street from French Meadow) Nondairy soft serve with fruit or a pineapple juice float.

2. Veggie Pie’s Frozen Grapes on a Stick (south wall of Food Building)

3. Fried Green Tomatoes (on Dan Patch by Crossroads and The Garden)

Warning: The eggplant fries and eggplant tacos at the Sonora Grill have egg in the breading.

236,197 people were at the Minnesota State Fair when we were on an absolutely gorgeous Sunday, setting a new attendance record!

The 2014 Minnesota State Fair runs August 21 through Labor Day, September 1. We cannot guarantee that all of these options will be available at this year’s fair, and the locations may have changed. You’ll have to explore the fair for yourself to discover what plant-based options are available this year.

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