The inaugural SWFL Veg Fest at Centennial Park in Fort Myers transpired in a colossal way this January and was a complete success from every angle.
The were an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 attendees at the first time event. Location, vendors, crowds, music, dancing, book signings, food demos and a food competition – this fest had it all. You need not be a vegan or vegetarian to attend. Actually, just an interest in better health, better environment and a desire for a more cohesive community or, as the Veg Fest motto goes “For People, Animals & Our Planet!” I definitely saw this as an opportunity to learn more about natural beauty products, better methods in farming and taste some really delicious foods grown naturally in our own backyards.
My first stop was at Cedar’s Food booth where their hommus is spelled with an “o” and samples are extremely natural with no preservatives. It’s their claim that Cedar’s chefs have life-long expertise in Mediterranean foods and, because of their experimental nature, they infuse different spices and veggies in their blend. They also produce Taboule Salad and Tzatziki. Check out their web site for recipes and coupons: www.cedarsfoods.com/Our-Story.aspx
I was asked to be a judge in the vegan chili cook-off competition evaluating the chili from two different competitors. The first contender was Paulette Blair, who ultimately won the People’s Choice award. Her chili was tomato-based, containing squash and beans with a very smokey flavor. The competitor was Alina Rivera, who won the Judges Choice. Alina’s chili was also tomato-based. She used three types of beans and yellow corn with the use of delicate spices. You could say everyone was a winner at Veg Fest of Fort Myers, 2017.
Food demos, doctors and local celebrities were on stage at different intervals through out the day. Three local chefs, Trish Reynaert, Evelisse Capó and Jennifer Thurman, brought together tasty plant-based meals like Southwestern Kale Avocado Salad and Asian Fusion Lettuce Wraps. I’m not a vegetarian, but these meals looked ultra-healthy and tasty and who doesn’t want that? The basis of the presentation was on preventive health care, fitness and lifestyle changes to decrease chance of disease.
The Healthy Living Lab had a table with all sorts of educational displays on good wholesome foods from the earth vs. the bad side of foods, including those that are overly processed and contain a large sugar content and/or sodium content. There were tangible items to see and hold which made it easier to convey this message, such as old soda bottles full of sugar. This program was developed by the Lee County School District’s Department of Food and Nutrition Services. The in-school outreach program provides health and nutrition information to students from kindergarten through fifth grade and is available to all the Lee County School District Elementary schools. The Food and Nutrition Services Department supplies all foods and the instructor. Learn more about this program here: healthylivinglab.leeschools.net/
I made my way over to a booth specializing in all natural salt and sugar scrubs, masks, balms, soy candles and creams called The Herb Appeal. I’m the type who makes sure what goes ON my body is just as important as what goes IN my body. Herbal beauty methods date back centuries. I found the Spicy Clove and Nutmeg Clay Face Mask to be fascinating. The name is intriguing to a foodie! It’s used on normal, mature or blotchy skin and creates rejuvenation so when you are searching for a new and natural beauty product, you can find The Herb Appeal on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/theherbappeal/
There were about 11 different vegan-friendly food vendors on site including The University Grill, Living Vine Organic Cafe, Sanibel Sprout and The Vegan Knife, and in speaking with the crowd at Veg Fest, a dire need for them because they are a rarity to find in our local towns. I was elated to find my “veggie side” and embrace the foods I could trust to be pure and plant-based.
The action was intense. I witnessed a yogi performing a body massage standing on the back of another person and using his feet. He was from Lotus Blossom Clinic. There was information on City of Palms Chiropractic and Shiva Yoga Shala. Ellen Jaffe Jones, author of Paleo Vegan, was available for book signings and for those who want to take home the read. Beautiful arrangements by Marty The Flower Guy, Green Leaf Worm Farm with amazing soil for gardens, Local Roots LLC. Pet rescue from Parker’s Rainbow Bridge Animal Rescue Inc, A Roof For Rufus and others, works of art from David Hammel, Bianchi Paper Castings and more. I feel blessed that there are those who are watching out for our best interest in food, health, environment and children with this knowledge of power. They are very well-versed in their craft and it shows in our lives as well as theirs.
Find out more on this awesome annual SWFL Veg Fest and details on other community events through out the year at: www.facebook.com/SWFLvegFest