By Orrin Farries

VegFest, the plant-based community festival put on by the Vegans and Vegetarians of Alberta (VVoA), was a blossoming affair for the spirit of compassionate living. Hosted at RE/MAX Field, radiant sunshine and soft breezes lent themselves to a beautiful day at the baseball diamond, where 51 plant-based vendors from across Alberta wrapped around the outfield.

This year was the second installment of the festival, upgrading from last year’s venue of the Ritchie Community League to Edmonton’s most notable baseball park.

Vendors were slinging sumptuous veg-forward dishes from vegan poutine to hemp-based ice cream and cashew cultured cheese. Many other vendors supplying plant-based lifestyle consumer products from groceries, skincare, and ethically sourced clothing were out in good spirits celebrating their community.

The event harvested thousands of visitors who took in the idyllic summer weather to the tune of Power 107’s DJ Johnny Infamous and with helpings of informative keynote speeches, like former NAIT psychologist Margaret Marean’s speech on ‘Food, Mood, and the Brain,’ exploring how the food we eat affects our perceptive experience.

The pursuit to live more holistically, to make informed choices for the general betterment of the individual and their environment seemed to be the unifying force of the plant-based community.

Heather Rombo, one of the VVoA volunteers that powered the festival, said the ethical treatment of animals is her driving reason for leading a plant-based lifestyle.

However, for others, the decision to eat plant-forward comes from a more personal space.

“It’s not an ethical standpoint for me, it was more of a health standpoint for me,” said festival-goer John, who said he switched to vegetarianism for his sense of physical balance and well-being.

This sentiment was echoed by Beetroot Kitchen, a Calgary based vegan nutrition company founded by Team Canada rugby players, Nick Blevins and Michelle Helmeczi.

“We went plant-based before his last World Cup and my World Cup and we haven’t turned back since. We just saw so many benefits training-wise and with recovery, so we stuck with it. He’s a chef, and I’m a nutritionist, so we already ate really well at home,” said Helmeczi, who represented the Canada Ravens at the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.

When asked what they hope to achieve within the scope of the plant-based community, Helmeczi said, “We don’t just want to be an option, we want to be the best option.” She went on to add, “[We] aren’t your typical vegans and vegan-entrepreneurs, and we’re starting to tell our own story that [vegan living] can be accessible for everyone. You don’t have to be this weak dwindling vegan, you can actually build muscle, have an active lifestyle, and recover faster.”

The day’s events were an exhibition of the embracing and compassionate culture of the plant-based community of Alberta and a good omen for the growth of the community moving forward. For more information on plant-based living initiatives hosted by the VVoA visit www.vofa.ca or on their facebook page.

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