Maine’s 15th annual VegFest inaugurates two big changes this year: the all-vegan event has moved to the fall — Nov. 3, and to a new home, the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.

Organizers say the move was made to allow vendors to access a commercial kitchen, which wasn’t available at the East End Community School where the festival had been held since 2009. Before 2009, the Maine VegFest took place at the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland and two different downtown locations. The VegFest used to take place in June.

Food trucks Falafel Mafia and the Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck will be parked at the entrance to the event hall, which is located behind the Westgate Shopping Plaza on Outer Congress Street. Organizers hope this move will prevent grumbles from attendees, such as those expressed last year when popular food sellers ran out of food early.

Val Giguere, who took a lead role in organizing last year’s VegFest, said, “Having more food was the number one request.”

This year there are slightly fewer overall food sellers compared to last year; however, two of them are mobile restaurants used to serving large crowds. In addition to the food trucks, the food vendors include vegan butcher Freshiez selling sliders, chili and steak tips; Heiwa Tofu selling sesame-garlic grilled tofu slabs; Lorraine Cakes selling allergen-friendly cakes and cupcakes; Slice of Heaven selling raw treats; the Paleta Guy selling fruit popsicles; and Piping Plover selling baked goods.

Beth Gallie, president of festival organizer Maine Animal Coalition, said while many attendees come for the food, the nonprofit serves an educational rather than a food-focused mission. “It’s an overgrown church fair, and we’re trying to educate people,” Gallie said, adding that she’d like the event to have “more emphasis on the program than the food.”

To that end, the free festival features a range of exhibitors — from farm animal sanctuaries to seaweed vendors — and three featured speakers.

Cookbook author and Maine native Colin McCollough will kick things off at 11:15 a.m. with Let’s Make Vegan Easier and Healthier, a demonstration of how to make coconut mojito energy bites and orange chocolate energy bites, both recipes from his 2019 “The Healthy Vegan Cookbook.”

“I’m choosing a few healthy dessert recipes to demonstrate that I like to make and keep in the freezer for my kids,” said McCollough, who plans to move from Massachusetts to the Portland area next spring. Last weekend, McCollough spoke at the two-day Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.

At 12:30 p.m., Christen Mailler will give a talk on Raising Vegan Kids. Mailler is co-founder of Vegan Publishers and a mother to 6- and 1-year-old daughters. Mailler’s talk will cover “nutrition (and) social aspects like birthday parties, holidays and the school environment,” she said. “There really is a huge amount of families now raising vegan kids.”

Dr. Timothy Howe closes out the festival with a 2 p.m. talk on The Plant-Based Diet to Prevent, Treat, and Even Reverse Chronic Disease.

“Plant-based diets are much better accepted and understood by patients and physicians alike,” Howe said. “Most now realize that eating more plants and less animals is good for us. Few physicians, however, recommend a plant-based diet.”

He does and during VegFest, he plans to talk about treating hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis and obesity with a plant-based, therapeutic diet. Howe, who practices internal medicine in Brunswick, has offered courses and talks about plant-based medicine for decades.

VegFest visitors check out exhibitors at last year’s festival. This year, the festival moves to a new location. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila.

While other VegFests across the country have grown steadily, the Maine Animal Coalition has kept the local festival small by limiting the number of exhibitors and vendors. The event typically attracts close to 800 attendees and features a few dozen exhibitors.

“The big room at Italian Heritage Center is a third smaller than the (East End School) gym, so we will be pickier with our invitations” to exhibitors this year, MAC president Gallie said. While other organizations which host VegFests have turned them into large food festivals, she continued, Maine Animal Coalition just wants “to raise a little money” and “have fun socializing.”

The handful of vegan food vendors are a bonus.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.