Crowds lined Holland Glade Road early Saturday morning, June 11, to be part of the fourth annual Rehoboth Beach VegFest, a yearly celebration of plant-centered eating, animal and humanitarian rights held at Epworth United Methodist Church.
Participants enjoyed a lineup of speakers, sampled vegetarian and vegan dishes, learned about animal rights, and sent their children to a bounce house while they practiced yoga on-site.
"My heart is filled with joy over the thousands who supported VegFest in both promotion and attendance," says Tara Sheldon, vice president and co-organizer of the event. "The bottom line is that choosing a plant-based diet is a moral and health issue that impacts all of us,” Sheldon said. “The more people move in that direction the better off we will be. I would like to believe the success of VegFest is a testimonial to our achieving just that."
Speakers explained the benefits of a plant-based diet and offered cooking demonstrations for meat-free dishes such as the Thai tofu banh mi sandwiches made by Kate St. John of The Humane League as an accompaniment to her informational talk about raising livestock.
Dorothy Greet of Lewes said she stayed for talks and demonstrations that followed her own. “They were all excellent, superb,” Greet said. “ Each one brought a different perspective on how people arrive on their plant-based paths, she said.
Each year the festival grows, organizers said, and these days, many who attended traveled from surrounding states in the Mid-Atlantic to take part in the energy, camaraderie and meat-free focus of the event.
Lewes resident Helen Capodanno said she’s not a vegetarian, but she often enjoys meat-free meals.
“My mother would cook a lot of delicious soups and stews without meat when I was growing up,” Capodanno said. “We were lucky if we had meat once or twice a week in those days.”
Throughout the day, a diverse crowd, ranging from longtime vegetarians to inquisitive omnivores, browsed the booths, purchased colorful art and collected information on plant-based recipes as well as eye-opening literature on the suffering animals endure before they end up on people's plates.
One attraction of the annual VegFest is the sheer number of plant-based food vendors.
Peaceful Provisions, a company headed by three sisters from the Bronx, traveled to the festival with marinated tempeh reuben sandwiches with caper-dill remoulade and cashew cheese sauce on marbled rye among their stock of vegan vittles.
While many cooled off with fresh juices and fruit smoothies, others stood in line for the artisanal, vegan brick-oven baked pizza from new local vendor Getta Pizza This.
A yoga village encouraged movement and meditation, and kids of all ages were engaged with activities including a dancing princess from the Georgetown-based Stars on 9 dance center.
A record-setting turnout ensured the VegFest is here to stay, organizers say.
Organizers also extended their gratitude to the sponsors who make Rehoboth VegFest possible, such as Jenn Harpel of Morgan Stanley, CAMP Rehoboth, Cape Gazette, Delmarva Public Radio, Rehoboth Beach Farmers Market, Rehoboth Beach Film Society, and VegFund.
Plans for Rehoboth Beach VegFest 2017 are already underway. For information about that and all other VegRehoboth events throughout the year, visit RehobothVegFest.org.