Veggie Fest will be held July 23-24 at the Science of Spirituality Center in Lisle. Along with an international food court, the festival features a variety of guest speakers, cooking demonstrations, vendors, entertainment and children's activities ...
Veggie Fest is coming home.After a year across town at Benedictine University, the largest vegetarian food and lifestyle festival in North America returns to the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Center in Lisle.
"Last year we thought we were going to be breaking ground because we're in the process of building a new center," said Jonathan Kruger, one of the fest coordinators. "So we moved over to Benedictine University. But then it turns out we didn't break ground â€” it took longer than we expected. Now we've kind of brought it back."The 11th Annual Veggie Fest runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 23-24 at the Science of Spirituality Center, 4045 N. Naperville Road, Lisle. Admission and parking are free.
"We've expanded it to make it a lot more room and comfortable for everybody," Kruger said.The event features a variety of cooking demonstrations, including presentations by Whole Foods and Nature's Path; speakers on topics including the vegetarian diet, spirituality and green living; an international food court; eclectic live music; children's activities including a costume parade, and more."Veggie Fest is a family-oriented festival. And it's really not for vegetarians. It's for everybody," said Kruger, who lives in Warrenville. "Our goal is for people to enjoy the festival, have a wonderful day with their families, eat some good food, listen to some good music, maybe attend a couple of talks and maybe they might implement or put in their diet some aspect of the vegetarian diet that can make a difference in their quality of life."Two years ago they started asking attendees to take a Vegetarian Challenge. In 2015, more than 3,000 people signed up to be a vegetarian for two weeks. The majority of people who come are curious about the diet, or perhaps have a family member who eats vegetarian and wants to learn more, Kruger said.
"Or maybe they just want to eat healthier," he said. "And that's what it's all about. We're going to have over 100 different vendors on different aspects of vegetarian food and healthy living."More than 800 volunteers from 20 different countries travel to Lisle to help with the festival. To say Veggie Fest has grown quickly in its 11 years would be an understatement."We had 2,000 people the first year, and now we had 35,000 people last year," said Mike Ribet, a member of the managing committee. "Based on the website activity right now, we're expecting a huge crowd. We've had more than double the number of hits on the website from previous years."The website lists the full schedule of speakers and activities, with a few presentations offered in Spanish. Returning as keynote speaker both days is Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, head of the Science of Spirituality."He's an internationally recognized spiritual master and teacher of meditation," Kruger said. "He speaks on the vegetarian diet as a way of life and how it affects our spiritual life and how important it is from an ethical point of view."Each day he will speak at 2:30 p.m. On July 23 he will discuss "Healthy and Happy You," and on July 24 the topic will be "Keys to a Peaceful Life."Other guest speakers include vegetarian Dr. Kim Allan Williams, Sr., president of the American College of Cardiology and chief of Rush University Medical Center's Division of Cardiology. He will speak on "Nutrition and Heart Disease: Taking the DIE out of Diet" at 1:30 p.m. July 23. In addition, Rush University Medical Center will be offering free health screenings that day.Vegetarian Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of Cook County Department of Public Health, will speak about "The Public Health Approach to Breast Cancer" at 1:30 p.m. July 24."He has a weekly radio show that he'll be broadcasting from the festival on Sunday," Kruger said.Aaren Stephens, founder and chief executive officer of Nature's Path Organics, will speak at 5 p.m. July 23 on "Global Warming and the Impact of Plant-Based Solutions."One of the biggest attractions at the festival is the international food court. Each year the fest adds new food ideas, Ribet said."There's been a lot of interest in vegan food and gluten-free foods so everything is marked so people who are either interested in vegan or gluten-free will be able to tell exactly what they can have," said Ribet, who lives in Oak Brook. "It's a good festival for people with those diets."A total of 24 food booths will be offering a variety of vegetarian fare. Ribet said a few of the favorites are the Dosas â€” a giant lentil crepe filled with potatoes and rice, vegan pizza, smoothies, sizzling veg kabobs, falafel sandwiches and Caribbean chicken with rice."Of course it's not real chicken," Ribet said. "It's veg chicken"New this year are Thai tacos and the Buddha Bowl, "which is a very healthy option for vegans" that comes in classic and spicy options, Ribet said."The food court's incredibly popular, and people always ask 'where can I get this during the year?'" Ribet said. "And the answer is, you can't. You have to come to Veggie Fest for all this great food."All of the food sold at the fest is prepared by Veggie Fest volunteers, he said."Veggie Fest is free to the public, and the way that we fund it is through the sale of food," Ribet said.With a large number of people signing up to take the two-week Vegetarian Challenge each year, fest organizers often hear back from many pledge takers who said the challenge inspired them to make the switch to a vegetarian diet."Everybody's got their own approach in terms of what motivates them to start being vegetarian, but they get a lot of different benefits," Ribet said. "They get health benefits, they get spiritual benefits. It's better for the planet. So there's a lot of reasons."Kathy Cichon is a freelance writer. Veggie FestWhen: July 23-24Where: Science of Spirituality Center, 4045 N. Naperville Road, LisleTickets: Free admission and parkingInformation: 630-955-1200 or veggiefestchicago.com