This weekend's Tampa Bay Veg Fest highlights plant-based diets

No matter if you’re a veghead or omnivore, there’s something for everyone at this weekend’s Tampa Bay Veg Fest.

Here are all the details on this family-friendly event.

What: 4th Annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest

When: Saturday, Oct. 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St., on the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. Parking is available in the adjacent South Regional Parking Garage, 301 Channelside.

Why: More and more people are realizing the benefits of decreasing their animal consumption, said Kimberly Gronemeyer, a board member for Florida Voices for Animals (FVA).

“People who are concerned about nutrition, the environment and animal welfare are all eating less meat these days,” she added. “We want people to understand why we advocate for a plant-based diet and also experience how delicious and fun cruelty-free food can be. There are a lot of misconceptions that vegetarians only eat beans and salads. But a plant-based diet can include a huge array of products, which are now accessible in your regular grocery store and nearby restaurants.”

Cost: Free!

Back story: FVA, an animal advocacy group, founded the Veg Fest four years ago to honor World Farm Animals Day. The event has steadily grown over the years as people become more knowledgeable about plant-based diets and concerned about the food they eat. An estimated 3,000 people attended last year’s festival, and this year’s projected attendance is 5,000, Gronemeyer said. There’s also been an increased interest in local vendors and restaurants that want to participate.

Food: Make sure you come hungry, because there will be plenty of delicious plant-based food available. The free-sample tent will feature wraps from Tropical Smoothie Café made with Beyond Meat as well as frankfurters by Field Roast and coupons for dairy-free fro-yo made with Silk Almond Milk from TCBY. Nearly 20 food vendors will also be on site selling vegetarian and vegan items. Food vendors include Taco Bus, Queen of Sheba, Vida de Café, Pizza Fusion and more!

Entertainment: While the food is by far the highlight of Veg Fest, the event has a lot more to offer. There’s a great lineup of speakers, including headliner Jane Velez-Mitchell, who has covered topics such as animal cruelty and factory farming as host of her show “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.”

“We also have renowned doctors (Neal Barnard and Mitchell Mills), a nutritionist (George Eisman), and a body building champion (Robert Cheeke) who will talk about the nutritional aspects of a plant based diet,” Gronemeyer said.

Ellen Jaffe Jones, author of “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day,” will discuss making the transition to a vegan diet without breaking your wallet.

“There is this misconception that eating vegetarian or vegan is expensive, but it really does not have to be, especially when you focus on eating whole foods rather than highly processed foods,” Gronemeyer said.

There will be non-stop music as a diverse range of acts takes the stage, and singer-songwriter Shana Banana will entertain the little ones in “The Veggie Kids Zone.”

“This year we are recognizing how important food is to family and one’s upbringing, so we wanted to make the event very family-friendly and reach out to those who might not typically consider trying vegetarian or vegan food,” Gronemeyer said.

Furry family members are welcome too. And there will be animal rescue groups on site so you’ll be able to go home with a new one.

Several films, such as “Vegucated” and “Planeat,” will also be shown throughout the day at the Tampa Bay History Center to help people understand that “simple dietary changes can make a world of difference in your health and literally save the lives of millions of animals,” Gronemeyer said.

For more information about the event, go here.


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