Streaming crowds, high spirits, and fabulous food marked the day at the third Rehoboth Beach VegFest last weekend. On Saturday, the popular festival drew larger-than-ever numbers of enthusiastic attendees, eager to learn more about veg-friendly eating and mindful living.
The festival featured nearly 80 exhibitors, including diverse local and national organizations, nonprofits, and over 20 food sellers. A crowd of upwards of 1,500 attended, including locals and visitors alike. Many had come to Rehoboth Beach specifically to be at VegFest, from places as varied as Seaford, Alexandria, Va., and Pottstown, Pa. Throughout the day, people wandered around, soaking in the upbeat atmosphere and carrying plates of food that garnered compliments and interest from others passing by.
Popular Rehoboth chef Hari Cameron of a(MUSE.) served up Vegan Chickpea Crabcakes, while another local favorite Chef Leo Cabrera of Modern Mixture offered Indian Wraps - both items quickly sold out.
Shankara Vegan Restaurant, whose staff came from Bethlehem, Pa., offered the exotic fare they are famous for, including dishes such Chickpeas in Red Curry Sauce over Black and White Quinoa, topped with Cilantro Sauce. And Wilmington-based Drop Squad Kitchen had people lining up for their exquisitely fresh Real Wraps, packed with a rich filling of Ground Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and their Vegan Soul Food including creamy Vegan Mac'N Cheese.
Throughout the day, praise for the event came pouring in. "This is fabulous!" exclaimed one person after another. "I love this event," said Leandria Campbell, owner of EcoBodhi, an exhibitor featuring eco-friendly skin products. She added "It's so nice to have it here."
"It's been great," said Pam Coleman, representing Beebe Healthcare. Coleman, administrative assistant for the Dean Ornish program at Beebe, noted that so many more people are interested now in preventing disease, and are learning how plant-based eating can be of much benefit. She added: "The wave has turned."
The major health benefits were the topic of a rousing talk by Dr. Milton Mills, presenting under a speakers pavilion filled to capacity. Afterward, local plant-based health expert Dorothy Greet exclaimed: "Dr. Mills was fabulous!"
Similar praise came in one after the other as speakers took the stage. Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary used personal stories to explain why eating meat-free meals directly helps the global environment, global poverty, the animals and one's personal health.
For so many attendees, the food was a delightful surprise and the star of the show. "People loved those Fish-Free Fish Fillets," exclaimed Charles Wolfe, tabling for VegDover and passing out samples of the award-winning new food product from Gardein.
Cooking demos drew large crowds too, as Lori Beinhauer, local home chef and staff associate at Good Earth Market Rehoboth, showed how to make Chicken-Free Chicken Salad and Vegan Meatloaf. Later in the day vegan celebrity baker Doron Petersan, two-time winner of the Food Channel's "Cupcake Wars," explained how to bake without eggs or dairy, and passed out samples of a huge Vegan Vanilla Buttercream sheet cake that she had made.
Other popular features of Rehoboth VegFest included the Kids' Activities Tent, expanded this year to include a Bounce, courtesy of Kids Cottage. The kids' area featured a host of engaging things for children to do to learn about growing plants and being kind. Lewes Montessori School had youngsters engaged all day with "You Can Eat a Rainbow." The kids' tent was popular with parents as well as the kids. Doron Petersan, herself a mother with her young son in tow, had special praise for this part of VegFest: "It's so nice to have this....it's important to incorporate the kids."
A large number of animal-related nonprofit organizations had information booths at the festival, including Delaware SPCA, Delaware Votes For Animals, and Mercy For Animals. Longtime animal advocate Jolene Shapiro, representing The Humane Society of the United States, made a surprise guest appearance and thanked organizers for their work and dedication.
The parking lot at Epworth Church was entirely filled. "Noting the very large crowds attending, Ken Mahan of Epworth Church commented "There were so many, they were parking on the road and walking up."
Many visitors took advantage of the no-charge rides on the Jolly Trolley, which provided service to and from VegFest throughout the day. One man said "My wife wanted to sit on the beach, and I figured I'd see what this VegFest is all about...Really interesting information I just didn't know."
"We are beyond pleased with the amazing response from the community," says Tara Sheldon, vice president of VegRehoboth and Rehoboth Beach VegFest. "It is so gratifying to have the support and participation of so many of our local organizations who work year round to create the caring unique community that we have here. Connecting with others, caring about others - that's really what VegFest is all about."
The VegFest festivities filled an entire weekend, with many arriving Friday evening to attend the Kickoff Dinner and Film Screening at the Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center. The film screening, co-hosted by Rehoboth Beach Film Society, featured the environmental documentary "Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret." Including attendance at a second screening added for Sunday, over 80 people viewed the powerful film. One attendee described it as "life-changing."
VegFest festivities continued Saturday night with the Evening Art Exhibition held at Gallery 50 in downtown Rehoboth, featuring a Meet and Greet with acclaimed artist Dana Ellyn. Ellyn's bold, provocative work includes pieces showing a dogs's face juxtaposed with the poignant face of a cow, drawing the viewer in to confront the question of "Why Love One But Eat Another?"
Rehoboth Beach VegFest weekend concluded Sunday with a Vegan Celebrity Brunch at The Cellar Door, featuring an expansive buffet of plant-based dishes.
"We just had a great weekend," exclaimed Kathy Stanek from Wilmington. "It was wonderful all around!"
Organizers are already making plans for Rehoboth Beach VegFest 2016. Find details throughout the year at www.RehobothVegFest.org.