VegFest 2017 — A Big Hit in the ‘Burgh


By Premlata Venkataraman            e-mail:  thepatrika@aol.com

Even for the nonvegetarians among us, delicious all-vegetable dishes are a big part of our cuisine. Yet, how many of us know that we have an annual vegan food festival, VegFest, right here, in the ‘Burgh, every summer?

The third annual VegFest was held Saturday, August 6 at the Allegheny Commons Park East, close to Allegheny General Hospital. The balmy weather with a brisk wind attracted over 10,000 people  — seniors, young parents with kids, and youngsters, lazing around the many stalls.

Every cuisine was represented. In addition to Chinese, Thai, Mediterranean, and Indian food, people could taste vegetarian snacks from Mexico, the Caribbean, many parts of Europe — even grilles and chilies. When we went there around 2:00 PM (the closing time was 7:00 PM), many stalls had already run out of food — that is how popular the event was.

In addition, there were stalls on cosmetics displaying items that had no animal content in them, and that did not use animals in testing.

The prime movers behind VegFest are Leila Sleiman (right) and Natalie Fristick (left) in the picture on the right. They became friends while participating in a protest against animal cruelty in circuses. Their organization Justice for Animals (JFA), extends compassion to more than just dogs and cats.

Leila has participated in other VegFest events across the US. Three years ago, they saw the potential for an outdoor VegFest in summer in Pittsburgh to highlight the issues in a family friendly and positive way.

The sponsors for this year’s festival were: Whole Foods, Smoothy King, East End Food CoOp, WESA-FM 90.5 (Pittsburgh’s NPR news station), and Pittsburgh Port Authority, among others.

With grape leaves, tabbouleh and hummus, and a slice of baklava for dessert we settled down for an alfresco lunch, listening to live music. A fun way to spend a summer afternoon for this vegetarian couple!   ♣

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