Out of all the community festivals that promise to offer "something for everyone," Veggie Fest breaks the mold.
Rather than trying to cater to a wide variety of interests, the Naperville-based celebration hones in on just one: the diet and lifestyle choice that is vegetarianism.
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With 100 vendors offering organic food delivery, raw food ideas, vegetarian nutrition classes and recipes galore, the two-day event, which continues from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, becomes quite the melting pot of everything meatless.
A hefty Saturday lunch crowd behind the Science of Spirituality Meditation Center, 4S175 Naperville-Wheaton Road, was in for vegetarian cooking tips from chefs, samples from organic food vendors and a festive atmosphere set up by 400 volunteers from around the world, Jonathan Krueger, the event's coordinator, said.
Among those volunteers was Yuvraj Duggel of Burr Ridge, who just returned from Belize where he shadowed the country's ambassador to the U.S. Duggel attends the meditation center and said he enjoys the well-being he feels because of his vegetarian lifestyle.
"I see people eating meat and I don't even want it," he said. "I'm not used to it; I don't like it."
Along with staunch vegetarians, the festival draws a lot of "veg-curious" suburbanites, said Colleen Holland, associate publisher of VegNews, a bimonthly magazine that is selling subscriptions at Veggie Fest.
Many visitors signed up for the vegetarian challenge, which supports people new to vegetarian eating with emails of recipes, tips and motivation in return for a promise they'll try a meatless diet for at least a week.
"Longer is better, of course," said Tina Willer of Willow Springs, who attends the meditation center and volunteered Saturday at the vegetarian challenge tent.
She said the tips, which come via email a few times a week for 85 days, will assist new vegetarians who may be unsure how to prepare tasty meals without meat or how to continue getting all the nutrients the body needs.
Tyanna Canatta of West Chicago and Donna Fatigato of Carol Stream were among Veggie Fest attendees sporting free purple tote bags full of granola bars and a cookbook -- an indication they signed up for the vegetarian challenge.
"We're passionate about healthy living," Cannata said. "So we're learning more about ways to eat healthy."