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Niagara VegFest 2015
June 7th was my birthday, and what better way to spend your birthday than at a vegetarian festival? Justin and I made the road trip down the QEW from Mississauga to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada for our first time attending Niagara VegFest. Niagara VegFest is an annual event that entered its fourth year celebrating vegan and vegetarian food. There were many booths with vegan-friendly products, food, materials about animal rights issues, clothing, and information about animal sanctuaries in the area. Of course, you don’t have to be vegan to attend Niagara VegFest! It’s wonderful when so many people can come together sharing an appreciation for a healthy and compassionate lifestyle. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or vegan for the day, all are welcome. The event is run by a group of committed volunteers and it is completely free to attend.
There were booths and tables both inside and outside at the site of Market Square where the St. Catharines farmer’s market is usually held. Most of the tables with vegan-friendly products, clothing, accessories, and information about animal sanctuaries and advocacy groups were located indoors. Outside, we were able to find many more tents with freshly prepared food items, as well as an area with fresh produce and plants for the garden.
Justin and I had a pretty late evening the night before celebrating my birthday with some friends, so we didn’t make it out to the festival until about halfway through the day. We were meeting up with a couple of friends there who were also arriving midday. On our way, I got a text message from one of those friends, exclaiming, “Beechwood Donuts just sold out for the day!” Nooooo. Beechwood Donuts is operated by the same folks who own Rise Above, an amazing restaurant where Justin and I have dined on a few occasions. We’ve eaten a couple of desserts at Rise Above, but have yet to try the tasty treats of Beechwood. Sadly, we’ll have to try them another time; however, it’s great to see that their baked goods are so popular.
A couple of vendors that I’d love to highlight because I purchased some of their goods:
- Soup Girl – These are pre-made soup mixes in mason jars that you just toss into a pot, add water, and cook. I made their Italian Rice & Lentil soup tonight and it was super quick and easy to prepare. The spices made the soup very fragrant (the apartment smelled amazing!) and it was really delicious. All of their soups are vegan and can be found at local farmer’s markets in the area, too.
- Perk Naturals – This product immediately appealed to me because there’s coffee in it. I’m a coffee fiend. Now, I can rub coffee grounds all over my face. Say what? It’s actually a blend of coffee, dead sea salt, brown sugar, and essential oils that’s great to tone, moisturize, soothe, and hydrate the skin. I used it on my face this evening, left it on for ten minutes or so while I had a relaxing bath, and then rinsed it off. My skin feels great! A vegan product.
- Black Cat Botanical – Their soaps smell wonderful, and the name of the company is quite special, too. The owner named her company after her black cat, Kiki (which is funny because my sister has a black cat named Kiki also!). Black cats at animal shelters are the ones that are euthanized the most and adopted the least. Some people think they are bad luck or not as cute. She wants to use her company name to start a conversation about adopting black cats and how they are just as lovable as every other cat. I purchased a bar of the garden mint soap. It smells awesome, and I’m in love with the packaging.
Representatives were also in attendance from the following advocacy groups, charities, animal sanctuaries, and animal rights associations: Animal Justice, Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, Hoppy Hearts Rabbit Rescue, Mercy for Animals, Niagara Action for Animals, Piebird Vegan Farmstay, Ralphie’s Retreat, Refuge RR, Sea Shepherd, Toronto Vegetarian Assocation, and Vegfest Guelph. Here’s a little shout-out to some great organizations!
And then, we actually got to meet one of my idols who I didn’t even know was going to be there…
It’s Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals! Some of you might remember that we interviewed Jo-Anne a little while ago about traveling and the treatment of animals at tourist spots. She is an award-winning photographer, author, and activist who has traveled all over the world to document the plight of animals. Her photos and stories from over 40 countries are in her beautiful and incredibly moving book entitled, We Animals. It was a great honour to meet her in person today!
And then, I got to meet another idol of mine once again…
There were many cooking demonstrations and speakers at Niagara VegFest. Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late for most of them, but we did get to see Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary speak! It’s always a treat to hear Gene talk about the vegan movement, and share his personal stories about rescuing animals, forming relationships with farmers, debates with members of the government and associations, inspirational vegan athletes, and so much more. He’s very charismatic, yet very down to earth and humble. I’ve met him on a few occasions and heard him speak several times over the years, and I’m so grateful to have been there each time. Right now, he’s promoting his latest book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, which I highly recommend that you check out. There are many great stories about Farm Sanctuary, information about the benefits of veganism (for people, animals, and the environment), and loads of fabulous recipes to help you make tasty plant-based meals at home.
After he spoke and answered some questions from the audience, he had a book signing. I already had my copy of the book that I brought with me. Gene happily signed it and we also got our photo with him!
And if that already wasn’t the most amazing birthday, we also ate the best plate of taco wraps and nachos smothered in vegan queso and green onions. The booth didn’t really have a name as the chef mostly traveled around and has been cooking at various events. Well, I wish I could buy his tacos and nachos all the time because they were awesome. The tacos were filled with fresh veggies and a spicy salsa.
And…my day of deliciousness wasn’t over just yet. Justin bought the best vegan cake ever for my birthday. Presenting…the Mile High Brownie Cake from Kelly’s Bake Shoppe in Burlington! It’s a brownie cake with tons of whipped vanilla icing, chocolate icing, caramel drizzle, smaller brownies on top, and a solid chocolate disc on the very top. It’s vegan and gluten-free, but you’d never know. Best cake ever.
Are you disappointed that you missed out on Niagara VegFest? Well, there’s always next year. Or if you can’t wait that long, next weekend you can attend Veggie Fest Hamilton (on June 13th, 2015). And be sure to check out the Toronto Veg Food Fest and VegFest Guelph in September, and VegFest London in November. We’re truly blessed with so many vegetarian festivals in Southern Ontario!