So the day before I delivered Codi Lynn (and probably the reason she came early), I had a wonderful experience walking around for hours at my very first Cleveland VEGFEST! I really love the idea of going to events for the first time in Cleveland that have been going on for years. This event, now in its 5th year, was nothing that had caught my eye in years past. Honestly, I don’t remember ever hearing of it, let alone considering going. It honestly reminds me that there’s so much to do here in Cleveland, we just have to be willing to try new things.This was exactly that for me, a new experience, something that I don’t usually do.
This year, I saw the flier reached out to the Founders to express interest in attending and became a media sponsor! First let me say NO I’m not vegan nor did I attend with a desire to become vegan (maybe one day but who knows). I am however always open to living a healthier lifestyle starting with my diet. At this time specifically, I was pregnant with gestational diabetes and had to change my eating habits. Besides that, my dad is a vegetarian and is always looking for new things to try so I thought attending would be a great experience for multiple reasons. My husband also talks about becoming Vegan or Vegetarian so it was nice to go and educate myself.
Vegfest was presented by The Cleveland Vegan Society, and the tagline this year was Cleveland Vegfest “Conscious Living Compassionate Choices,” the event was FREE however a $5 donation was suggested. It took place at the Huntington Convention Center downtown so I knew before arriving I had two options either find street parking for free or the willard garage across the street for a small fee. The event ran from 11am-7pm so I knew event with my hectic schedule as a basketball mom, I would have to block out time after games to attend. Luckily the boys played early and I was headed to the event by 12:30pm. I was surprised to drive into a very busy downtown, there were people everywhere! From the outside alone, the event looked like a major success.
My expectation prior to attending was that this event would just be tons of food and demonstrations but boy was I wrong. Soon as I entered, and looked over the ledge I could see it was so much more. First I was overwhelmed by the crowd. The convention center was literally full of thousands of people. The set up looked easy to navigate so I made a plan to walk through the exhibit one row at a time and then leave. I took the escalator downstairs and prepared to make my donation to enter. I was happy to receive a goody bag by doing so. Inside there was a guide for the entire event including pictures, bios, the event schedule and a vendor map. Not only that but they had sweet vegan recipes inside. There was also an insert specifically about Vegan and it really highlighted all the reasons why you shouldn’t eat dairy, eggs, fish and meat. It has totally changed my perspective and made me want to cut back which I have. There was also section that I found to be very informative that had Dairy Alternatives, so in place of animal milk try these options, in place of butter, in place of yogurt, in place of cheese and in place of ice cream!
There were over 130 vendors between two categories, either you were apart of the Cruelty- Free Marketplace (goods, services, or products) or you were apart of the Cleveland Water Vegan Food Court. Thanks to my baby, jumping on my bladder, I decided to start at the bathroom. I know that sounds like too much information but that’s where I began my VegFest experience. A very smart company, Rustic Maka placed their samples at various sinks! It was the first cruelty free product I would sample and definitely one of my favorites. I washed my hands with the Chamomile infused body scrub and topped them off with theChamomile Infused Body Cream from the Luna Bliss collection, not only did is smell amazing, it felt amazing on my skin! The marketing was pure genius because the company not only provided samples but had a flier telling you about the product, and provided the exact booth location within the exhibit to purchase the products! Needless to say that was the only place I had to visit for sure before leaving because I needed to take this home!
I walked up and down every aisle and there were so many great booths, here were a few that I fell in love with:
BabyMunch Organics – as you can image this place stuck out to be as a pregnant momma! It was prepackaged all natural baby food that came with a subscription. It was a great concept! You could pick your flavors, choose between a box of 12 or 24, the select how often you want it delivered weekly or monthly! The best part about it is that it’s made right here in CLEVELAND! While I usually make my own baby food this is definitely a healthy alternative I will try once Codi is bigger and ready for food! I’m all about supporting local, especially this business which was created by a young African-American mom like myself!
Ol Dirty Sheets Hot Sauce – if you’ve read any of my other post you know I love spicy food! So it was only natural that the booth with the term hot sauce caught my eye! This is a vegan chef owned and operated family business! It’s batched a little down the road in Wooster Ohio. I tried both the People of the Trees (spicier of the two) and Senor Smoke Dawg (chipotle based sauce) and loved them both so purchased.
Rustic Maka – so I mentioned this company above and was soooo happy when I finally visited the booth! They had so many cool products, but my favorite, the one I raved about… of course was sold out and could not be ordered at that time. I ended up purchasing the charcoal, Purify: Exfoliating Mask WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LOVE and use about once or twice a week! I have very sensitive skin so I was hesitant to purchase too many products upfront, I thought I’d give it a try then order more items offline. So far no issues and I look forward to ordering more! They have a variety of natural deodorants, facial, oral and body products. I encourage you to check them out!
Plant Love Nutrition – so I didn’t eat much but this chocolate avocado pudding was simply AMAZING!!! I purchased multiple and took it home to share! Not only was it vegan and gluten free, but it was made of nothing but avocado, cocoa, maple syrup, vanilla and almond milk! This product is made in Youngstown Ohio and is currently out of stock online! It’s worth randomly checking so that you can one day try this taste of chocolate heaven!
Sweet Visions Vegan Bakery– so there were lot’s of booths with vegan cookies/brownies but this was my favorite! I literally purchased 3 or 4 cookies and brownies and ate them all before I left. They were so good and the family was so incredibly nice. It’s one thing to have a great product, it’s another to have great customer service and be willing to talk to someone who is asking questions and eating your product at the same time. They have a shop in Seven Hills, so this is one company I actually plan to visit locally!
DaBoro’s – so I had seen this place downtown in the arcade and on Cedar and Warresnville as just opened! I hadn’t stopped to see what it was but thought this was the perfect time to check it out. The line was short so I grabbed a small Pad Thai Salad for $5 with the peanut and soy ginger dressing. It was a small portion but enough to satisfy me in the moment. It’s definitely a place I would go again for lunch to see their entire menu.
Urban Sweetness – so I didn’t actually get to try anything from Vegan Vicki because she sold out of everything! However this is someone who I am so excited to support. She’s a lung cancer survivor and cookbook book author, 30 days Vegan. She did a food demo on the main stage for Tasty Tacos: Jackfruit and Cauliflower Tacos with homemade sour cream. She offers Vegan Cooking Classes, catered events and personal chef services. I have already reached out to her to make meals for my family and look forward to blogging about that experience!
I’l be honest, the food was tricky. Literally everywhere had a LONG line, and when I say long I mean wait line of like 15 minutes or more. There were multiple places that I wanted to try but I couldn’t bring myself to wait that long (blame it on the baby). That was actually my sentiment only after I waited in one line only to get to the front and find out everything was sold out. Then I stumbled across the longest food line in the entire space and I had to find out what it was and why everyone committed to that wait. I found out it was the Vegan Doughnut Company and hopped right in line. I had tried their donuts one time before at the Asian Festival and fell in love. I got close to the front of the line when I found out they too were sold out. However I heard them say they had a fresh batch on the way. I decided to venture off and come back. Funny enough by the time I was ready to leave they had not been restocked. I walked outside to head to my car and watched the doughnuts be delivered. I literally turned around went back in the venue and got right back in line. I purchased not one but four doughnuts to take home and share with my family. I picked cookie dough, strawberry shortcake and my favorite the glaze. They were seriously worth the wait and walk!
Although I was alone, there was a Vegfest Kids Area that I would’ve taken Bryce if he was with me. They also had story time, crafts and coloring. There was also a main stage placed in the rear of the exhibit space and then a cooking demo stage and music stage on the far right side. I wondered acoustically how this would all work but as I went to those spaces I realized it did. I spent a good 5 hours at Vegfest so I was able to experience almost a little of everything. I listened to Christopher Sebastian on the main stage as he talked about Race, Class and Species. I got to watch David Hoffman “The Bitchy Vegan Homo” do a food demo on stage for party tips and I got to explore all the various booths. I tried a lot of new things, and learned a lot from the vendors about plant-based diets, and what it truly means to be vegan. This is an event I’m for sure attending in 2019 and I encourage you to do the same. I also encourage you to check some of the businesses I mentioned above and tell them you read about them on #CourtneyCoversCleveland. Special thanks to Leigh Davis, a founding member of the Cleveland Vegan Society for her hardwork on this event!