With my last weekend in Toronto being September 11 to 13, I could not believe my luck with the 31st Annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival being on that same weekend as well. I missed the festival the last three years in a row, so I was even more excited to finally have the timing right. With an otherwise busy weekend, I settled on coming to the festival on Saturday and spending most of the day and evening there as it ran from 12pm to 9pm.
In this post on why food festivals in general are awesome, coffeeholic elaborates on her top five reasons for loving them. I will follow the list and review some of the many highlights specific to the 2015 Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival.
The food. Food is the No. 1 reason that I, and most people I know, are excited about these types of festivals. Throughout the day, I sampled a new vegan smore cookie by Sweets from the Earth, vegan protein bars, green juices, mock meats such as the incredible new pesto Tofurkey sausage, vegan mac 'n cheese, triple-filtered coconut water, and finally settled on indulging in a vegan poutine as my main meal. There are always bound to be a few regrets in this area, and deciding the line was too long for trying out Apiecalypse Now! Bakery's vegan pizzas will remain mine. Regardless, I left satisfied, a little too full, and with a bunch of new options for places to eat at in the future (Apiecalypse...I'm looking at you).
Expsoure to new veg products. This is always the case, and this year I happily discovered some new Vega products I hadn't heard of before, as well as a pleather shoe company called Nice Shoes based in Vancouver! I was hoping to find a vegan cruelty-free lip balm as well, but the only option I found was $14, so I moved on. I would also add exposure to new groups here--in this case my friend who came with me had never heard of the Annex Cat Rescue, and happily discovered them thanks to the festival!
Lectures and demonstrations. The schedule this year was jam-packed with yoga lessons, book signings, talks on how to become a vegan athlete, animal rights lectures, cooking demos (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.) and much more! Check out the schedule here.
The free stuff! Being able to sample is always great, and the vendors were very welcoming and generous with their products (aw, Canadians.). I left with lots of great reading materials as well, including brochures and pamphlets on various organizations and animal-friendly practices!
The networking. It is always great to meet like-minded people gathered in one place, and with the variety of different booths usually present--from those focused on food, nutrition, animal rights, cruelty-free products, or services, it's always interesting, educational, and social! I left with the contacts of many potential clients for nutrition, and will also write up some articles on a few of the newer companies I was introduced to. Win-win!
To add to these five reasons, the festival was in a family/kid-friendly space as well, and was also pet-friendly! The area was a great choice, and it was nice to snack on veggie food while sitting in the grass, surrounded by dogs and listening to live bands play. People seem to be extra friendly to each other during festivals like this, and it's always nice to see actual conversations being had and connections being made rather than everyone plugged into their smart phones.
The only con of this festival ended up being the weather. It was chilly and began raining shortly in, but with so much great food and people around, I think that even a full-on Canadian blizzard would not have been able to impact the attendance!
In short, I left the 31st Annual Veg Food Fest in Toronto with new restaurants and bakeries on my radar, new cruelty-free shops and companies to check out, and with pants that had suddenly become too tight. Success!
Check out our review of the 32nd Annual VegFest right here!
Photo Credit: Amy Kazandjian