Like a field of corn in the summer, Veggie Fest in Naperville keeps on growing.
The ninth annual fest, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, and Sunday, Aug. 10, is expected to draw at least 25,000 people to the Science of Spirituality Meditation Center, 4S175 Naperville Road in Naperville, to sample vegetarian delicacies, watch demos of veggie-based recipes and learn from experts on health and spirituality.
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If you goWhat: Veggie Fest
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, and Sunday, Aug. 10
Where: Science of Spirituality Meditation Center, 4S175 Naperville Road, Naperville
Who: Hosted by Science of Spirituality Meditation Center
Cost: Free with food for sale
Info: veggiefestchicago.com or (630) 955-1200
"This is going to be our last year on the property because we've just grown too big," said Jonathan Krueger, one of the festival's organizers.
The fest plans to stay in the Western suburbs. But during the last year at the original site, Veggie Fest highlights will include speeches by Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, as well as other doctors and authors; performances by singers and musicians, including Miss Illinois Marisa Buchheit, who is a vegan; an international food court with vegetarian, vegan and raw options; and a large tent for children's activities.
Krueger said vegetarians love the food court with smoothies, pasta salads, vegetarian pizza and corn dogs; Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Mexican foods; and even vegan red velvet cupcakes. But the free festival is for herbivores, omnivores and carnivores alike.
"It's not just for vegetarians," Krueger said. "It's for anyone who's interested in good food, healthy living and having a good day."
Young visitors to the event can participate in a Kids Parade at 5:30 p.m. each day, and they're encouraged to dress as their favorite vegetable, fruit or animal. Anyone attending Veggie Fest can give back by donating a nonperishable, vegetarian food item to be given to People's Resource Center in Wheaton, or by donating blood at a mobile donation center.
"That's another way we're trying to reach out and connect with the community through Veggie Fest," Krueger said.
Anyone who stops by can sign up for the vegetarian challenge by pledging to give the meat-free life a try for two weeks in exchange for a goody bag with free recipes and vegetarian tips.
Last year, 3,000 people signed up to swear off meat for a couple weeks. But festival organizers and the 800 volunteers who make the event come together won't be pushy about it, Krueger said.
"The idea is for the fest to be a fun fest for people who want to incorporate a portion of the vegetarian diet or healthy living into their lifestyle," Krueger said. "We're pretty low-key about it. We just want people to enjoy the day, have fun and learn a little and enjoy the good food and enjoy the atmosphere."