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First slice of Vegfest serves up a big crowd

Celebration of all things vegan holds first of several summer events

Vegfest Guelph kicked off with a bang on the weekend, attracting over 1,000 people to the festival’s first pop-up market on Saturday at St. George’s Church to celebrate the benefits of vegan living.

Steamy temperatures and a newly-introduced $3 door fee didn’t seem to keep an eager and underserviced crowd from congregating inside the market area – stiflingly hot at times as patrons sweated and furiously fanned themselves to try and stay cool – where 70 vendors showcased vegan-friendly goods ranging from beauty products, clothing and accessories to home decor, art and food, under one roof.

Offerings and services were expansive yet all shared one common theme: to celebrate and promote cruelty-free, vegan lifestyles in the form of arts, crafts, eats and treats.

“Everyone seemed to dig the message that we don't have to harm animals in order to enjoy good food, and to adorn and care for ourselves or each other. That's the key message that we really hope to share with all of our events,” said Vegfest co-founder Christine Allard, who has been coordinating Vegfest since its inaugural event in 2014.

Outside the church in the parking lot, hungry patrons formed orderly lines to enjoy a bite and a breeze from three food trucks that served up tasty vegan fare.

In the past, Vegfest was held as one expansive event each year on the vast grounds of Goldie Mill Park, which easily accommodated large crowd sizes, a food fair, live music and a market. The park’s closure due to safety concerns earlier this year prompted organizers to revamp the popular festival for 2017, breaking it down into a series of events at multiple venues and dates spanning across the summer.  

Shop-Up is a new addition to its traditional lineup, the first event for Vegfest Guelph 2017, which will also include a bake sale, cooking classes, film nights and culminate in the Veggielicious food fair on August 27.

Katarina Poletto, owner of Hamilton-based Dolled Up Desserts, a vegan wholesale bakery that sells packaged vegan baking mixes in over 45 retail locations across Canada, was a vendor at Vegfest Guelph last October and said she didn’t think twice when the opportunity arose to exhibit at the newly added pop-up market.

“I appreciate the two smaller [broken-down] Vegfests as it gives a broader platform for community members to enjoy vegan, cruelty-free culture. I liked that [Shop-Up] was smaller as it allowed more time to interact with the community. Attendance was what I expected; same with sales.”

She did add that she’s prefer a venue with air conditioning in the future as the heat had a negative impact on her displayed baked goods.

“Despite its agricultural heritage, Guelph is known to have a strong vegetarian, vegan and animal respecting community. [As a vendor, it’s a great way] to connect with many like-minded people who care about animal welfare, sustainability and supportive communities.”

Margaret LeSage, owner of Guelph’s Boon Burger Cafe, first participated as a Vegfest vendor in 2016 when her cafe first opened. She said that while the pop-up market concept was different and new, it doesn’t replace the old outdoor Vegfest which primarily focused on vegan food, not vendors.

“We had an idea of the anticipated crowd size but most would be unfamiliar with Boon Burger so we took a best guess at the quantity of food we would require. The response was overwhelming and we sold out in about an hour and a half,” LeSage wrote in an email.

At Saturday’s Shop-Up, Boon was required to work with a minimized menu as their location inside the church’s dated kitchen wasn’t equipped for them to serve their famous burger. LeSage said the veggie dogs and chili served on Saturday didn’t have the same appeal to non-vegans as her burgers typically do.

“I think the pop-up market is a way to keep the VegFest theme top of mind, but it certainly does not replace VegFest,” she said.

LeSage said she appreciates the festival’s lure to attract attendees from across Ontario and praises organizers in doing the best they can.


“VegFest planners in Guelph are passionate about veganism and do a great job of organizing events,” LeSage added.


A portion of door proceeds, totalling $1,000, will be donated to We Animals.

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Barb McKechnie

About the Author: Barb McKechnie

Barb McKechnie is a Guelph-based freelance writer with a passion for local lore.
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