Since its earliest version in a gravel parking lot in 2012, VegFest Charlotte has grown into an annual gathering of local, regional and national businesses and organizations showcasing their vegan-friendly products and services.
But, the festival isn’t just for vegans — it’s for all of us.
Inclusivity and diversity are the central themes for this year’s event, taking place on Sept. 7, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at The Park Expo and Conference Center at 800 Briar Creek Road.
Nourish Charlotte founder and VegFest organizer Julia Simon echoed that sentiment. “To that end, we’re reaching out to new vegan businesses and offering assistance with logistics, health department requirements and the like to ensure that language barriers or lack of resources are not a hindrance to anyone that would like to vend,” Simon said in a statement.
Expect an all-vegan food court, expert speakers, curated panels, chef demonstrations, kids activities and more. This is a free and family friendly event (parking is $5/cash only).
VegFest is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) with the mission of spreading veganism throughout Charlotte and the Carolinas. This year’s event will host panels discussing topics such as health and wellness, fitness, nutrition and this year’s central theme, inclusivity in veganism, organized by Kayla Jai of Queer City Charlotte. Additional speakers include John Lewis, aka Badass Vegan; Erin Ferguson; Justin Fhedrik-Nelson, aka Bitcoin Vegan; and Leilani Munter, a local race car driver and environmental activist.
Matt Martin, former executive chef at Fern, Flavors from the Garden, is now on the planning committee for VegFest Charlotte. For Martin, veganism was a simple choice.
“If I can live my life not producing harm to animals or to the environment and feel the same or better, why wouldn’t I choose to live that way?” Martin said.
Although Martin said it was challenging early on, like most things, “The longer you stick with it, the easier it becomes.”
VegFest will host over 100 vendors including Barvecue, Natureville, The Greener Apple, OMG Alchemy, Taylor Street Sweets and Punjab Spice Company. An all-vegan food court will feature favorite local restaurants and food trucks like Fern, Flavors from the Garden; Nourish; Bean Vegan Cuisine; Living Kitchen; Cooking with Joya; Ve-Go Vegan to Go and more, according to a press release.
Pro-tip: Bring cash. Many vendors will be set up for debit and credit card transactions, but some will not.
Heist Brewery and Barrel Arts will host the post-VegFest afterparty presented by VegFund and Nourish Charlotte. The event will feature “vegan-friendly or vegan-fronted acts,” including Celeste Moonchild, It Looks Sad, DJ Seebirdgo and Cyanca.
Despite a strong turnout of over 4,000 attendees last year, Simon expects an even greater number at this year’s event.
“VegFest gets bigger and better every year,” Simon said. “It’s a one-stop shop for all things vegan.”
For more details, visit the Facebook event page.