Grand Rapids VegFest ReturnsJul 18, 2019 10:14AM ● By WLMagazine
Grand Rapids VegFest returns to the DeltaPlex on Sept. 22 for its fifth annual educational celebration of all things vegan and vegetarian. The event welcomes attendees to explore the benefits of a plant-based diet through seminars, cooking demonstrations, local and national vendors and more.
Erica Wisniewski is the co-founder, president and board chair of Plant Based Roots, the 501(c)3 behind Grand Rapids VegFest. The organization promotes a plant-based lifestyle through informational and supportive events, including movie screenings, cooking
demos, speakers, fun social events and restaurant meetups.
She notes that while West Michigan has deep roots in hunting and fishing and a cultural imprint that includes “meat and potatoes,” awareness for the benefits of veganism is quickly growing.
“People are beginning to understand the effects of factory farming,” she said. And, referring to the World Health Organization’s announcement that consuming processed meat significantly increases the risk of cancer, she added, “It’s a huge wake-up call for people. It can be very difficult when you have lived your whole-life eating one way.”
Wisniewski had already been a vegetarian for most of her life when she converted to a vegan diet after viewing the film, “Vegecated,” which introduced her to the ethical and health benefits of veganism.
“It was an eye-opener for me,” she said.
Wisniewski hopes to provide the same educational experience to VegFest attendees; she emphasizes that the event is not strictly for vegans and vegetarians, but for anyone seeking to learn about plant-based lifestyles.
“I want people to come and hear lectures and see that you can cook great food and eat an awesome cookie that is vegan and enjoy it,” she expressed.
Cooking demonstrations will be provided by local and regional chefs, including Chef Bee Harriette Brown of Sisters on a Roll Cafe; Chef Josh Musinski of Water and Wheat Cafe; cookbook author Chef Valerie Wilson; and Chefs Cory and Tarra Davis of Big Daddy Pete’s BBQ, whose plant-based menu has become a hit among local vegans.
“Pretty much every restaurant in the city proper is very accommodating,” she expressed. “And restaurants are clearly labeling items on their menus as gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, or that the dish can be made that way. That is where I have seen a big difference over the years — restaurants offering options.”
VegFest has welcomed thousands of attendees over the years and is made possible by a team of dedicated and passionate volunteers.
At this year’s event, Dr. Caroline Trapp, the director of diabetes education and care at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, will speak about the impact of diet on diabetes. Becky Vandenbroek, founder of Girlapalooza, a cruelty-free vegan lip gloss, will provide education about chemicals in everyday products. Social media influencers The Sustainable Duo will also be speaking about zero-waste living. Food vendors include Bit Baking Company, Johnny B’s, Love’s Ice Cream, Shimmy Shack food truck, Bohdi Juice
Company and much more. Other vendors include Green Wellness Life, West Michigan
Critter Haven, Save the Chimps, Dominion Sanctuary and more. Sponsors include Bridge St. Market, Natural Awakenings, Cats and Dogs Magazine and SJA Solutions.
Leading up to Grand Rapids VegFest, Plant Based Roots is hosting Dr. Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet, on Sept. 13 at Yote Social Lab. Additionally, Grand Rapids’ iconic Blue Bridge will be lit green in conjunction with a special celebration to kick off the event (date pending).
Wisniewski encourages everyone to join in on the opportunity to learn more about a lifestyle many across West Michigan have embraced.
“We are not here to judge,” she said. “We are not an animal-rights organization. We are here to give you information and show you that you can eat a different way that is just as delicious. We want everyone to come, no matter where you are on your journey.”
Follow Grand Rapid VegFest on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To volunteer or register as a vendor, visit grvegfest.com.
What: Grand Rapids VegFest
When: Sep. 22, 10-4 p.m.
Where: DeltaPlex Arena, 2500 Turner Ave NW