DC VegFest! | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Eleven

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.

DC Vegfest, or, Everybody Loves Vegan Treats

Happy Saturday! We just returned home from DC VegFest, and it was loads of fun. We’d intended to arrive early to procure a swag bag, buttt… we overslept! Last night I was all, “Pshh, I never sleep past 8:00 on the weekends! It’ll be fiiine! We’ll have ample time to get there!”

And then I woke up this morning, checked the clock, and saw that it was 9:30. Holy moly! I’d heard that the swag bags went pretty fast last year (as in well before the opening time of 11:00), so we quickly gave up hope of making it in time to snag one (it’s a ten-minute drive to the metro station and then nearly an hour-long metro trip to Yard Park). When we arrived around 11:15, though, there was still a long line, meaning that there were still bags available. It was moving quickly, so we waited, enjoying the antics of all the dogs people had brought along for the day.

Overhead view of a very long line of people!

When we were about 15 or so people from the front, a VegFest volunteer informed us that they’d run out of bags. Nooooo! We were so close! Demoralized, we entered the festival, which was already packed.

We hadn’t eaten before leaving, so we made a beeline for food. There were quite a few food trucks, and we opted for the one with the shortest line. We each got a tofu banh mi sandwich from the Bonmi food truck. They were fine and filling, but nothing spectacular.

Our bellies full, we spent some time wandering the festival, checking out the stalls and snagging free samples of various “meats,” nut-based cheeses, and beverages. I was delighted to see a tent with TONS of delicious desserts from Vegan Treats, but appalled that the line was already snaking halfway down the festival grounds! Apparently, everyone loves VT as much as I do.

Me in front of the Vegan Treats tent with lots of vegan doughnuts in the background!

A smile of genuine delight.

We met up with a coworker and her husband, watched a speaker, and did some more snacking and sampling. We particularly enjoyed the Viana meats we tried; they were really flavorful. We also liked Gouter‘s raw “pumpkin spice latte” tonics made with almond milk, spices, and cold-brew coffee. Yummy!

Since the line wasn’t getting any shorter, we decided to bite the bullet and wait in line for Vegan Treats. I could NOT pass up the chance to stock up on vegan doughnuts, after all! S graciously held our place while the three of us walked around and watched part of another speaker’s presentation.

I nearly panicked when we reached the front of the line—there were so many options! We’d scoped it out before and decided on a pumpkin whoopee pie and a pumpkin creme doughnut, and then we added a pumpkin cheesecake on a stick and a speculoos (!) cheesecake on a stick! At the last minute, I asked for one of the chocolate doughnuts I fell in love with at Loving Hut so many, um, weeks ago.

Top-down view of my hand holding a half-eaten whoopee pie.We were pretty full from our snacks and lunch, so we didn’t make much of a dent in our purchases. S and I ate about half the whoopee pie and called it quits. At that point, we were all a bit tired and VegFested out, so we peaced out and headed home.

All in all, VegFest was a great event. I think they could’ve realized earlier that they’d run out of bags soon and let those of us in line know so we didn’t stand there for no reason, but that was really the only hiccup. And the fact that it was so crowded only speaks to the growing draw of the veg movement, so I can’t even complain about that. There was a great selection of exhibitors, free samples, and items to purchase. Next year, I’ll suck it up, set my alarm, and get there early!

Have you attended any vegan or vegetarian festivals?

Bonus! I forgot to post this photo of the pumpkin cheesecake on a stick. The speculoos version is just off-screen… :)

Cheesecake on a stick! It's covered in small white chocolate , regular chocolate, and peanut butter (?) chips