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Rehoboth VegFest doubles in size

Second annual event stresses joys, rewards of plant-based diet
Sue McCarthy of Yoga Garden leads a group in a yoga demonstration during the second annual VegFest at Epworth U.M. Church in Rehoboth Beach. BY RON MACARTHUR
June 25, 2014

Spirits soared at Epworth United Methodist Church June 14 as nearly 1,200 people turned out for VegFest 2014 in Rehoboth Beach, promoting plant-based eating and compassion for animals.

Visitors were greeted by more than 55 exhibitors as the event doubled in size from its inaugural year.

Rehoboth VegFest 2014 also expanded into a three-day fiesta, with a Celebration Dinner at Hobos in Rehoboth Beach Friday night and a special film screening of the documentary "The Ghosts in Our Machine” at The Atlantic Sands Hotel.

Saturday evening festivities included the debut exhibition of John Schlimm's 34 "Art of Compassion" pieces, with a reception at Rehoboth's Philip Morton Gallery. Sunday featured brunch at Nage, a sold-out event with an overflow crowd, and wrapped up with the afternoon “Walk, Stroll, & Dine" happy hour at Hobos to benefit The Humane League.

Vegan food to sample and buy was a highlight of the day June 14. Onsite all day was executive chef Hari Cameron of a(MUSE). Cameron also defended his title at the vegan cupcake eating contest.

Numerous restaurants participated, including Espuma, with executive chef Jay Caputo on hand. Hobos; Root Gourmet; Crazy 8's, from Ocean City, Md.; My Nature, also from Ocean City; and Rehoboth-based Cilantro Cucina de Mexico offered plenty of plant-based eating choices. Cilantro executive chef Gladys Fernandez's fresh fare was a crowd favorite and a sell-out.

Susan Levin of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine discussed disease prevention, and Dr. Beshara Helou of Lewes made a surprise appearance to support healthy, plant-based eating.

Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at The Humane Society of the United States, said meat-free eating is more ecologically sustainable; when people skip just one meal of chicken a week, it brings big environmental benefits. "It's the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the road," Shapiro said.

Speaker and photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur offered a moving description of  her work, "We Animals," which chronicles animals caught in the machine of food production and manufacturing. Making the connection between animals raised for food and the dogs and cats we know and love at home, McArthur said: "We call them leather," she said."They are cows... individuals."

VegFest 2014 featured many new additions this year, including a yoga village hosted by The Yoga Garden, a book tent hosted by Browseabout Books, a plant-based nutrition tent with local expert Dorothy Greet, and kids' activities hosted by Kids Cottage, with a veggie cooking demo for children by Katie Freer of The Sprouting Chef.

VegFest is presented by VegRehoboth, the Rehoboth-based nonprofit that promotes healthy, sustainable and compassionate eating. Vice president and cofounder Tara Sheldon explains:  "One goal for VegFest is to create and expand connections between individuals, families and businesses in our community, especially those already concerned with animal welfare, and human health and wellness. We want to help people recognize the impact of their food choices on those issues, as well as on the environment. I think we achieved that."

Additional information about plant-based eating, including recipes, can be found at ChooseVeg.com.