Annual Central Florida Veg Fest serves up vegetarian food, lifestyle


Casi Sandeman, wearing an “I (heart) vegan boys” T-shirt, said she’s a vegetarian because it’s better for animals and her own health.


“I’m so excited,” said Sandeman, 30, an Orlando photographer who was attending her first Veg Fest and deciding what to eat. “I want to try it all.”

Sandeman was one of many hundreds of vegetarians who jammed Orlando Festival Park for the annual Central Florida Veg Fest. It’s a celebration of vegetarian cuisine that also features art, music, lectures, children’s activities, yoga, meditation and a variety of vendors.

The first festival was in 2005 at Lake Lily Park in Maitland. It moved to Loch Haven Park the second year and then to Festival Park in 2012.

There was something for almost everyone Saturday. Food choices included vegan corn dogs, vegan hot dogs — advertised as containing “11 grams of protein, bro!!!” — acai bowls, coconut water sipped directly from a coconut, ice cream made of coconut milk, samosas and even a vegan Thanksgiving dinner, which new Florida residents Emily and Rory Dunn were sampling even though it resembled meatloaf.

Emily Dunn, 31, who formerly lived in Indiana, said she’s enjoying meeting other vegetarians and becoming part of the community.

“There’s so much to do here in terms of vegan and vegetarian food, and this is an example,” she said, gesturing to the many food carts and trucks at the festival. “There’s vegan food as far as the eye can see.”

The festival also featured animal-rights groups with specialties including in saving pugs, parrots and greyhounds, henna tattoo booths, pottery, vegan toiletries, organic edible plants, chanting Hare Krishnas, an ask-a-vegan booth, a humanist fellowship collecting postcards with messages for the homeless and a 7-year-old rapping about the joy of being a vegan.

A vegetarian wrestler was the first speaker. Other scheduled talks covered diabetes, raw food, the lives of fish, the benefits of fasting and the connection between eating animal products and global hunger.

A drum circle, live music and dance and tours of the Festival Park Community Garden also were on the program.

Evelisse Capó and her daughter, Shayla Hernandez, 13, came from Sarasota to attend Veg Fest, where Shayla got a Henna tattoo on her hand. Capó, who has been a vegetarian for 15 years, said it was worth the trip of about 150 miles.

“We get to meet and greet other vegetarians in Florida,” said Capó, a pharmacist and health and nutrition educator.


by Susan Jacobson –