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.

VegFests! | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Nine

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Aaagh! I had hoped to have a really great celebratory post today. Roots, our favorite vegan-friendly grocery store, was hosting a small vegan festival at the location closest to us. The store is also somewhat close to the facility where I’ve been visiting my hospice patients on Saturday mornings, so I figured that I’d hit up the festival after my visits (instead of swinging by the farmers market like I usually do). I planned to snap some photos of the exhibitors and vendors, pick up a yummy lunch for Steven and me, and maybe get one of the swag bags they were handing out to the first 100 visitors. Final celebratory post done and dusted.

Well. It was not to be. I drove the 15 or so minutes from the facility to Roots, only to find that it was a madhouse. They’d requisitioned part of the parking lot for the event, meaning the already-too-small parking lot for that strip of stores was super crowded. There was a massive line forming (for food, I assume), and I could see that people were parking on side streets already. I did one loop of the parking lot and got the heck out of the there. I was hungry, it was crowded, and I was not in the mood to navigate the situation! (Of course, I’m glad the event was popular, but maybe the location was not the best!)

As I drove home, I pondered what to post about while trying not to get too annoyed that I’d missed the farmers market for this bust. Hmm… maybe Steven and I could switch our plans, take advantage of the warm weather, and go somewhere for lunch. We could sit outside and I could share something about the simple joys of a good meal on a nice day. But then I looked at the clock; it was already nearly 1 p.m. and there was no way we’d get out to lunch and back again by 2. Why did we need to be back by 2? Well, Verizon (our internet service provider) accidentally cut our internet yesterday (Friday) while doing work next door (…) and couldn’t send someone out to fix it till “between 2 and 4 p.m.” today, Saturday. Yes, they broke our internet and couldn’t fix it for 24 hours. Steven works from home (…using the internet…) so his Friday afternoon was a bust. I was pretty livid that Verizon couldn’t send anyone sooner and contacted customer service on Twitter and on their website, but of course they couldn’t change it.

Anyway, home I went, where I whipped up a quick quinoa and sweet potato dish while we waited for Verizon. I typed up this post (internet-less) and thought about what else to share. Why not talk about vegfests of the past?

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

That’s me about five years ago, thrilled to be at the D.C. VegFest and ready to stand in line for some amazing goodies from Vegan Treats. VT was new to me when we moved to the east coast, but it is an absolute staple at vegfests ‘round here! People will stand in line for literally hours to get a box of eclairs, cake pops, cheesecake slices, whoopee pies, doughnuts, and other beautifully decorated sugarbombs. (The Maryland area is not exactly bustling with vegan bakeries, so we take what we can get.)

This year, the Washington D.C. VegFest was cancelled when Hurricane Florence threatened to wreak havoc and D.C. declared a state of emergency. For a few days we waited for the storm to hit, but then it… didn’t. The Saturday of VegFest dawned clear, sunny, and perfectly temperate. A real bummer. Though I don’t go every year, this would’ve been the perfect day for it!

We also sometimes visit Baltimore VegFest, including a couple years ago when my mom flew in for the weekend to join us. Though a smaller event than the one in D.C., both feature speakers, exhibitors, vendors, and looooots of food. We’ve enjoyed sandwiches from Nourrie’s Cuisine (a vegan catering company that just opened a restaurant (!) in Baltimore), soul food from NuVegan Cafe, and coffee from Brewing Good, among other delights.

Back when we lived in Madison, we attended the first-ever Madison Vegan Fest. It was so long ago that the details aren’t clear to me anymore, but it was indoors and a bit small. Now, though, it looks like it’s grown quite a lot.

For new vegans especially, I think vegfests are great ways to feel like you’re part of a community, stock up on veg goods (especially since Herbivore Clothing often exhibits at the big ones!), and try local vegan-friendly dining options. While I don’t make it a point to attend every local one anymore, I still like stopping by to re-energize my vegan batteries. :) Do you have any local vegfests?

(P.S. Our internet is fixed! Obviously! :D)