DC VegFest was one of the first major veg events Steven and I attended after moving to Maryland six (!!!) years ago. (In Steven’s case, moving back to Maryland; he grew up here.) In 2013, VegFest took place in late September and was held at Yard Park. I remember being absolutely shocked at how long the line for Vegan Treats was — we literally waited hours! Even six years ago, vegan goodies were still somewhat of a novelty, so waiting two hours for cheesecake and doughnuts and whoopie pies seemed, if not wise, at least understandable.
Fast forward to today, to DC VegFest 2019. This year, for the first time ever, DC VegFest was held in a literal baseball stadium: Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals play. AND IT WAS PACKED.
That was only one small section (the entrance) of the stadium. Vendors were set up in a big circle around the actual baseball diamond and stands, where the concession stands are during ballgames, so you could walk around the whole thing in blessed shade and relative cool. I was blown away with how many people were there, checking out the vegan skincare products and the apparel and all the dang food. Plus, the vent was dog-friendly! Tons of people brought their pups, either leashed or in backpacks/front packs/carriers. So cute. More than once I felt something cold and wet touch the back of my leg only to realize it was a pupper giving me a little boop. Yes please!
After making one full circuit, I was feeling hungry and had to decide where to eat. (Side note: There were fewer samples than in years past! I tried a bite of Treeline Cheese and a slice of Beyond Meat’s new spicy sausage (YUM), but nothing else.) All the stalls and food trucks located in the sun were unappealing to me; it was 85˚F, and while that’s pretty tame for this summer, I was not in the mood to get sweaty and grumpy while waiting in line. (Because every single food stand had a line!) I eventually opted for Yeah Dawg, a hot dog stand that is always a huge hit at VegFest. I’d never tried it, though! After a semi-frustrating wait, during which a VegFest employee decided to change the location of the line and had to herd us all right in the middle of foot traffic, I finally reached the front and ordered the Cali Kush Dog, their classic dog topped with kale caesar salad, coconut bacon, and sriracha mayo.
Hot dog in hand, I high-tailed it upstairs to a much emptier part of the event. This was the place to be: There were big industrial fans spraying a fine cool mist, shaded areas with comfy chairs for lounging, and plenty of empty tables with great views over the empty ballpark. I snagged one of those and chowed down.
Yeah Dawg’s schtick is that their dog is soy- and gluten-free; instead, it’s made of veggies! That means it doesn’t have the snap or bite of a more traditional dog; instead it’s a bit squishier. But it’s seasoned well, so it’s entirely filling and satisfying. Plus, the toppings were killer, especially that coconut bacon! I suspect other folks like it too, because Yeah Dawg was selling bags of coconut bacon along with their dogs.
One down side to the new location? There was no beer garden! In the past, there’s been a separate area where you could get a bottle of beer and sit and drink it away from the crowds, but not this year. It was a shame, because a cold beer would’ve gone down a treat on this hot day. Plus, beer and hot dogs at a ballpark are just classic!
DC VegFest has grown so much in the past six years. It’s really amazing to see how popular the event is! I didn’t attend any of the talks, but the lecture tent was filled every time I walked past. There are so many more vendors now, especially for baked goods — there were at least five different stalls selling sweets! I should’ve picked something up for Steven, but I didn’t feel like standing in line again — I had an hourlong metro ride to get back home, and by mid-afternoon I was sleepy and ready to get going.
One thing that hasn’t changed? The Vegan Treats line. Although I no longer find it worth my time to stand for two hours, plenty of others clearly do! It was just as long as ever, and the Vegan Treats tent was just as huge and bustling as ever.