Veggie Fest really cooking in Naperville this weekend
By David Sharos For The Sun August 11, 2012 5:20PM
Tarashaya Bhatia of East Brunswick New Jersey rapidly pours fresh fruit smoothies at Veggie Fest on Saturday, August 11, 2012 in Naperville IL | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
If you go
What: Veggie Fest
Where: Science of Spirituality Mediation Center, 4s175 Naperville Road, Naperville
When: Fest continues from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:13AM
Although the number of vegetarians in the country may not be going up, Veggie Fest in Naperville is certainly growing.
The weekend festival, celebrating the vegetarian lifestyle, will run through Sunday at the Naperville Science of Spirituality Meditation Center on the northeast end of the city.
A recent Gallup poll on vegetarianism made news. Its findings last month were that 5 percent of American adults consider themselves to be vegetarians, largely unchanged from the numbers found in polls in 1999 and 2001.
Veggie Fest, however, has grown bigger and bigger over its seven years into an event that draws thousands of people.
“We had over 22,000 attendees last year and we feel that the ‘pre-event’ buzz has been building even more this year and that there has been a lot of momentum leading up to this weekend,” said event coordinator Jonathan Kruger said. “We’ve added a number of new things this year and feel this is something for vegetarians as well as for those who just want to come out and have fun with the family.”
New this year was a Veggie Art Show featuring somewhere between 40 and 50 local artisans who displayed their wares, as well as an appearance by 22-year old Marisa Buchheit, the 2012 Miss Chicago who Kruger said is a vegan herself.
“We were contacted by Miss Buchheit, who said she wanted to attend,” Kruger said. “She also offered to sing, which fits in well with our program as we have a lot of great musical entertainment including a group known as ‘Live Wire’ which consists of performers who are just 9-year-old kids.”
The weekend also includes cooking demonstrations, craft shows and presentations on health and wellness from experts including Dr. James Gruft, who has an office in Oakbrook Terrace, where he works as a physical medicine and rehab specialist. Gruft, a vegetarian himself, spoke about the “science” behind a meatless diet and how it slows down the aging process.
“A plant-based diet helps people with pain relief since meats contain acids that are pro-inflammatory while plants have acids that are just the opposite,” Gruft said. “Younger people are embracing more of a vegetarian diet and it is part of the triad of healthy living which includes diet, exercise, and managing your stress levels.”
Food booths were clearly a major highlight as hundreds of people already packed the park area within the first hour of the opening of the festival Saturday. Visitors found everything from veggie paninis to “veggie sushi.”
Sisters Kacie Cathy, 19, and Kaitlin Cathy, 21, of Aurora, each praised the health benefits of eating a more plant-based diet.
“I love vegetables and feel better when I eat them,” Kacie said. “We really don’t eat much meat at home anyway, and we’re more of a veggie-centered family.”
“I don’t really like the taste of meat and I tend to stick more with eating vegetables,” Kaitlin added. “A friend of mine told me about this event and we decided to check it out.”
Dale Vonfange of Lombard said he once made the conversion to an all vegetarian diet and didn’t even know about it.
“I work with a lot of people from India and once I was eating that type of food for weeks and didn’t even know it was meatless,” Vonfange said. “I found that I liked it very much and learned that one of my favorite things was an Indian lentil dish I really like.”
Naperville resident Sunil Bhatia, 44, worked as a volunteer at a veggie burger and panini stand Saturday. Bhatia said he has volunteered at all seven Veggie Fests and that on a typical weekend, his food stand sells 800 to 1,000 veggie burgers.
“Last year we grilled them and this year we are deep frying to try something new,” Bhatia said. “People find they like the taste and don’t really miss eating meat. The burgers are made from a soy protein so people are getting the components they get in meat without all the elements that are bad for you. Every year, people are really excited about trying these veggie options.”
Aurora’s Susan Dietrich, like Bhatia, said she has attended all seven Veggie Fests as well and that for her, eating vegetarian “encompasses humane, flavorful food.”
“I’ve become totally vegan in the past few years which also means no dairy or eggs and I am an animal rights activist as well,” she said. “I think eating this way gives you a more well-balanced sense of well being. I think killing and eating animals is just bad karma.”