Where: Naperville, Ill.
When: August 7–8, 2010
Why: Beware Boston. Move over Toronto. There's a new festival on the block.
The Scoop: A century after Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle immortalized the stockyards of Chicago, in an affluent suburb 30 miles to the west and in the shadow of McDonald’s Hamburger University, a small vegetarian festival began in 2005, attended by a few thousand believers. Science of Spirituality, a non-profit multi-faith organization that adheres to a vegetarian diet, started VeggieFest Chicago as a way of promoting its meat-free lifestyle to the community, one tenet of the international organization’s mission. Fast-forward five years. If you are unsure that the veg lifestyle has caught fire, or doubt that the beginning of critical mass for vegetarianism is upon us, you weren’t in Naperville, Ill., this past weekend.
Under mostly hot and sunny skies more than 20,000 people from as far Seattle to Boston, Quebec to Florida, strolled through the always crowded fairgrounds, soaking up food and info as fast as it could be served. VegNews even imported the crackerjack sales team of Randy and Bev Orwig (Lyndsay's parents) from St. Louis to assist us on Saturday, when we sold a record number of subscriptions in a single day.
VeggieFest Chicago is reaching a new audience through a successful combination of open outreach, enjoyable entertainment, a welcoming attitude, and a wonderfully supportive vibe. Hundreds of volunteers pitched in for months before the event, and then for two very long days, to pull off a festival that needs to be on every vegetarian's map.