Men in Bears jerseys and bacon T-shirts were a rare sight Saturday on the grounds of the Science of Spirituality and Meditation Center in Naperville. Instead, billowy shirts, yoga pants and hiking sandals were in fashion as crowds visited vendors, noshed on falafel and learned about meatless meals at Veggie Fest.
Now in its ninth year, Veggie Fest, which continues 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, at the center, 4S175 Naperville Road, offers visitors an opportunity to learn about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, explore physical and spiritual well-being and just have a good time listening to music and sampling foods they might not be exposed to otherwise.
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Tofu pockets, pad thai noodles, dairy-free fruit smoothies, gluten-free breads and popcorn and vegetable kebabs were among the offerings Saturday as some 15,000 people strolled the grounds.
While some ate, others took in cooking demonstrations or learned about meditation techniques and organic gardening. In the family tent, throngs of girls created rubber band bracelets, and children of all ages had their picture taken with farm animal cutouts.
Festival organizer Jonathan Krueger was pleased that sunny skies and a slight breeze led to a steady stream of people that will likely eclipse 2013's attendance of 25,000.
"We're expecting 30,000 people over the two days," he said, adding that number makes the Naperville gathering the largest Veggie Fest in the country. "It's not just for vegetarians. Today, a lot of people want to stay healthy, eat healthy and eat good food."
Paige and Darin Ballard of Naperville were among those enjoying the festival Saturday. For the recent transplants from Utah, this was the first suburban festival with their four kids, ages 7 to 14.
"I will sometimes dip into vegetarian meals, and I thought this would be a good opportunity for the kids to see different foods and cultures," Paige said.
For Debbie Habzda of Carol Stream, Veggie Fest provides an all-in-one place opportunity to keep current.
"I just like the vendors; I like trying the food and seeing what's new," the 35-year vegetarian said.
Parking and admission are free. For details, visit veggiefestchicago.com.