for The Daily Progress on Oct. 2, 2010
Browsing stalls at the Charlottesville vegetarian festival.
With dozens of vendors anxious to share vegetarian food and recipes, facilitate pet adoptions and promote vegetables in lieu of meat, Charlottesville’s Lee Park became a paradise for vegetarians on Saturday.
“I haven’t seen anything else like this,” vegan Ellen Pearce said of the festival. “It’s just like a meeting of the clan.”
The 14th annual Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival attracted 4,000 to 5,000 people, event coordinator Cavell Kopetzky estimated.
Some booth vendors and attendees cited what they said are health benefits in explaining why they are vegetarians, and some said they believe meat production is inhumane and unhealthy for the environment.
Jon Kessler, general manager of Sunergia Soyfoods of Charlottesville, provided samples of a meat substitute for gyros, for example, designed to taste similar to meat.
Kessler said he turned to vegetarian food because his family has a history of heart disease.
Voices for Animals, an animal rights organization based in Charlottesville, coordinates the free festival with volunteer help. It is promoted as one of the oldest and largest vegetarian festivals in the country.
Julie Falconer, a Voices for Animals board member, said the festival was successful early in its formation and has become increasingly popular.
More than 90 exhibitors set up shop at the festival. Dave Norris, who is now Charlottesville’s mayor, founded the Vegetarian Festival.
Falconer said the message Voices for Animals tries to give festival attendants is to think about how food consumption impacts their health, the environment and animals.
Kopetzky added that while the information is made available to those who attend the festival, it’s presented in a “non-threatening” way that is not “in your face.”