“If you stop eating animal products, you can save about 100 animals per year,” says Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC). “Changing the heart and mind of one person can do a lot for animals.” Demonstrating how easy it is to be vegan is the focus of UARC’s first annual SLC VegFest, which takes place on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Library Square.
With the help of dedicated volunteers and generous donations, SLC VegFest is a labor of love. The members of UARC have been hard at work planning an event that will be both fun and educational. “We wanted to create a free event with a positive atmosphere, where it will be easy to learn and ask questions about a vegan lifestyle, and most importantly, taste the amazing vegan food we have in our community,” says Meyer.
The biggest challenge at SLC VegFest will be deciding what to eat. Free samples of vegan fare will be available like cookies and cheese, as well as Laziz hummus and goodies from The Rose Establishment, Follow Your Heart and Beanfields. “One thing we’re really excited about is an Oktoberfest-themed beer garden hosted by Ice Haus,” says Meyer. “They’ll be serving beer and brats.” Other options sound just as delicious. Piper Down will be offering a satisfying shepherd’s pie. Soul Food Travelers, a plant-based catering company, will have an array of dishes available, including braised mushroom tacos with guacamole and a creamy poblano sauce, velvety macaroni and cheese made with coconut cashew cream and authentic caprese made with pesto, ripe tomatoes and mozzarella made from tofu. Passion Flour Patisserie will offer elegant French pastries. Sage’s Cafe and Vertical Diner, pioneers in the Salt Lake City vegan movement, will also be selling food. Other treats run the gamut from doughnuts to meatless jerky—everything you think you’d miss when switching to a plant-based diet.
While the food options are awesome, there’s more to the festival. “We’re going to have some really informative guest speakers,” says Meyer. “Our keynote speaker is Matt Ruscigno. He’s a registered dietitian and athlete with a masters degree in Public Health. He’ll be talking about how vegan food doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. We’ll also have Stephanie Nicora, a third-generation shoemaker behind the vegan, eco-friendly brand Nicora Shoes. Her talk focuses on ethical fashion and why it matters.” Local speakers include Tiffany Young, the director of Ducks and Clucks Rescue Sanctuary, who will be discussing problems with the humane meat movement and issues with backyard chickens. Veganism 101 will be covered by Lauren Lockey, the co-founder of Sage Mountain, an animal sanctuary based in Park City, and their Director of Communications, Natalie Blanton.
If you need one-on-one advice on adopting a vegan lifestyle, there will be plenty of volunteers happy to help. “In addition to the speakers, we’ll have ‘Ask a Vegan Expert’ stations throughout the event,” says Meyer. “In the kids area, we’ll have vegan parents answering questions about raising vegan kids and vegan pregnancy. In the Athlete Expo, there will be a nutritionist available for questions. We’ll also have a station where people can ask everyday questions like, ‘What’s wrong with eating fish?’ We want to make it really approachable.”
For those with nutritional concerns, The Athlete Expo will answer your questions and provide inspiration to get fit. “Kelly Colobella, who owns Cakewalk Vegan Baking Company, will be organizing the Athlete Expo. She’s a football player and a powerlifter,” says Meyer. “We’ll be showcasing local vegan athletes, some of whom have been vegan 20 to 30 years. A nutritionist will be on hand answering questions. There will be a free yoga class as well as other free fitness classes.”
Face-painting, a bounce house and a vegan-themed coloring book will keep the kiddos entertained. Local bands and DJs, including Dapper, Josaleigh Pollet and more, will play music. Exhibitors will include local and national nonprofits and commercial booths selling animal-friendly goods. The local vegan and political podcast, Which Side Podcast, will be selling T-shirts. “It’s a good selection of different aspects of veganism,” says Meyer. If you’re moved by what you learn at SLC VegFest, be sure to stop by UARC’s booth, where they’ll have a vegan dining guide for Salt Lake and a handy brochure filled with vegan recipes to continue your vegan adventure. A UARC membership fee of $20 will help support the nonprofit and also give you generous discounts to Salt Lake’s finest vegan establishments, such as Zest Kitchen & Bar, Frisch Compassionate Eatery and many more.
When UARC isn’t planning SLC Vegfest, their time is spent educating people about local issues affecting animals, like animal experiments taking place at the University of Utah and the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars during the summer. Their website, utahanimalrights.com, is a valuable resource to learn about animal issues in Utah. Follow UARC on Facebook and Instagram for more vegan inspiration, calls to action and more.