Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mingling & Meandering in Minneapolis (part 1 of 3)

Who: VN Publisher Joseph Connelly
What: Day One of Their Lives, Our Voices
: The Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference
Where: Hubert H. Humphrey Conference Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
When: June 6–8, 2008
Why: To attend a historic “first” + a chance to see a new city

The Scoop: When approached to sponsor the inaugural Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference, hosted by Minneapolis-based Compassionate Action for Animals, VN jumped at the opportunity. And we’re damn glad we did. Much like now-familiar orgs Compassion Over Killing and Mercy for Animals, CAA is the new wave of animal activism, blending a winning combination of ingredients including youth, intelligence, professionalism, media savvy, and contemporary technology to advocate passionately and successfully for its chosen constituency.

So, I packed my bags and red-eyed it into Minneapolis, watching the sun rise as the 757 descended. Having never been to Minnesota nor the Twin Cities, Day 1 was set aside for exploration. Meeting up with an old friend, together we walked through downtown and all around southwest Minneapolis. We were amazed to discover this jewel of a city: spotlessly clean, refreshingly cosmopolitan, yet historically beautiful. Old buildings blend with new; lakes pop up everywhere, some just a few short blocks from downtown; modern skyscrapers leave their shadows on charming residential neighborhoods of hundred-year-old homes. Is this city for real?!

We lunched at one of the city’s noted veg spots,
Ecopolitan, a 100-percent-organic raw-vegan restaurant embedded in a building that also houses a spa, oxygen bar, and art gallery, and that also holds free weekly lectures, making it a veritable one-stop eco-health shop. Ordering the Ginger Lemonade (apple, lemon, lime, ginger), it stunned the senses with such flavor that we quickly ordered a second. Next, we settled on two entrées: Spicy Thai Noodles (julienned "noodles" made with carrot, zucchini, daikon, and red bell pepper intertwined with coconut, pineapple, almonds, and cilantro) and the Savory Casserole (a sprouted buckwheat concoction ripe with avo, veggies, and a herbed cashew crème). Each teased the ‘buds with multiple, complimentary flavors: fresh, savory, ripe, spicy. Is “healthy” a flavor? In addition to the fab fare, Ecopolitan is a happening place. Abuzz at 2pm on a Friday afternoon, diners ranged from hipsters to the health conscious. Oh, and how many restaurants do you know that include a “services” section on its menu? I’d like to order a 30-minute Infrared Cedar Sauna Session, please. Thank you very much.

Next, we meandered back toward downtown, taking in the architecture, crossing a highway on a surreal pedestrian bridge, traversing Loring Park (yes, there were lakes), and visiting antique shops and used bookstores. All in a day’s work, mind you. Next it was on to the opening reception of Their Lives, Our Voices.VegNews had the honor of sponsoring the Atrium, the hub inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Conference Center where TLOV was happening. The Friday night reception was casual; guests mostly socialized and munched delicious vegan pizza from Pizza Luce. Both the venue and the conference were intimate, yet the speaker line-up and lectures were A-list. Check back tomorrow for VN’s recap of Their Lives, Our Voices.