The nutritional equivalent of religious conversion.
Vegans, vegetarians, salad enthusiasts and everyday fans of food came to the free 14th Annual Veggie Fest in Lisle on the campus of Navistar over the weekend. Since 2005, Veggie Fest has been an annual retreat for local health nuts for free samples, food demos, health and beauty talks, health and wellness seminars, music, and of course, a massive food court.
But to get to it all, you had first to park.
Parking previously has been a problem for the quickly growing festival as their popularity has risen. Showing up Saturday with no problem being guided to a spot, but some name choices were questioned for parking areas. After all, organization.
Sectioning these lots left a lot to be desired as commonplace groupings weren’t curbed by, actual curbs. Several fruits bled into each other, leaving much to be desired in the way of not getting lost. “I’m parked in the Eggplant lot,” is one of the things that kept rolling through my mind as I tried not to burst out laughing over the thought.
Showing up to a festival known for its food samples is always a lot of fun, but when you walk in and only get a cheesy poof, it’s pretty disappointing. Let me put this in perspective.
“I’m parked in the Eggplant lot,”
Previously, the vendors included potato chip, granola, and ice cream companies, but this year the most exciting vendors were Nature’s Path, whose line again would scare a Haunted Mansion crowd, and Boxed Water is Better, who’s stand had collapsed by 3 pm, on Day 1 (possibly due to running out of water on a scorcher of a day).
Half of the fun of this event, for me, has always been samples. I’m a big Whole Foods Market sample person, I have been for over a decade. Friday going in, you could live off the samples they give out for a small meal, but Veggie Fest is like Thanksgiving to the effect in my eyes! (*Yes, I’m cheap.) Imagine showing up to Thanksgiving Dinner and getting a cheesy poof?
Granted the music was great, I arrived just as Brother John came on, you can check out his sound for yourself here. But another huge draw and distraction to that effect are the Speakers.
No, not the sound speakers.
Guest speakers are set up across the grounds to accommodate shade and a rest area for attendees, along with furthering the education of the vegan/vegetarian diet. Though they weren’t too practical as we saw paramedics treating an older man on my way into the festivities.
Former NBA Superstar John Salley was on hand talking about plant-based diets, (these days the Spider grows more than guards) while across the way legendary Chicago based raw/vegan educator Karyn Calabrese discussed Banana Pudding. I saw this all in passing on my way out as at this point in my life, while I enjoy banana pudding very much, I won’t invest time from my life to hearing someone talk about it.
While food vendors stretched as far as the eye could see a little deeper in, I wasn’t about to wait in line to give someone a dollar to buy food tickets.
Two reasons actually:
1) I never carry cash.
2) It is 2019.
3) No one told me to bring CASH.
I have a phone that can get anything literally on, anywhere. Why Veggie Fest didn’t sell tickets online before the event is nothing short of a marvel to me. Some of the expected wait times would give a Disneyland line a run for its money, nevertheless a Summertime fest in Western Chicagoland.
Booths stretched out as far as your eye could see with everything from ‘Beyond Burger” to the “Vegan Omelets Station” work in the area known as the Food Bowl to begin transforming an average person’s views towards vegetarianism, it all just seemed like an enormous tease at this point. I can’t stand when festivals invent their own form of currency. One food ticket equals one dollar…but not everyone knows that. Burger King took full advantage over rumbling stomachs like mine below as a plane flying high overhead trying to steal the thunder advertising for an Impossible Burger.
“No one told me to bring CASH.”
Any Burger seemed that far out of reach on Saturday afternoon.
For an event all about food, it seemed like there was a massive lack of it outside of the Food Bowl, which itself only occupied less than 10% of the total grounds on hand for the event. A lack of rides and attractions did little for me to bring a positive review to the table.
Veggie Fest has a HUGE following and an even more enormous opportunity for growth to become a significant economic draw for Western Chicagoland, utilizing the festival scene. Yet it continues to show even after fourteen years, it’s still trying to find itself. While providing great introductions to the world of veggies and attempt to streamline the education process for those who were on the fence, to begin with.
But for a regular guy like me, all I can say is, thanks for the cheesy poof.