The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Enjoy food from vegetarian and vegan vendors at VegFest. Courtesy photo.

NH VegFest

When: Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Manchester Community College, 1066 Front St., Manchester
Tickets: Free admission


VegFest returns
Annual festival highlights vegan culture

By Allie Ginwala

 Find out what it’s like living an animal product-free life or exactly what seitan is at the fourth annual NH VegFest in Manchester on Saturday, May 7. 

The “celebration of food and life” will be held at Manchester Community College, featuring food, live music and educational sessions throughout the day.
Event founders Kathy DesRoches and Norma Koski (owner of Susty’s Cafe in Northwood) had been to a number of vegetarian and vegan festivals in neighboring states before deciding New Hampshire needed one of its own.
 “I was brainstorming with Norma one day and saying [that] we should have a VegFest here in New Hampshire and said, ‘Why don’t we do this together?’” DesRoches said. 
Though VegFest showcases all aspects of an animal product-free lifestyle, you don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to attend. DesRoches said anyone who’s considering making a change or even those who are simply curious are welcome to come out. 
“It’s an opportunity to learn what it means to be vegan, how you can be a healthy vegan,” she said. “We’re having a sprouting class and a class on fermenting foods [and] we’ve had them on how to travel, so a variety of courses.”
She hopes that this festival will help dispel some of the myths about what a vegan lifestyle is and why people choose it, that it’s more than just a dietary or health choice.
One of the main features DesRoches and Koski had in mind when they designed NH VegFest was to make sure it stayed local and low-key.
“[NH VegFest] is more of a people-to-people network instead of corporate,” Koski said. “I used to do Boston VegFest … and it got so big … wall-to-wall people all going around and getting more frenzied and people wanting to get in and get samples.”
Trying to avoid that hectic setting, NH VegFest is smaller, including only local people and businesses so it’s easier for guests to network with one another and find out about the vegan and vegetarian resources in their community.
Since no festival would be complete without fun foods to try (not to mention lots of desserts, because “vegans are crazy about desserts,” DesRoches said), there will be plenty of food samples and food for purchase from area restaurants and chefs like The Farm Concessions, Willow’s Plant-Based Eatery and Susty’s Vegetarian Cafe. 
“We always bring sandwiches. … A pesto tomato tofu foccacia bread — that is one of our best things,” Koski said. “And tofu sandwiches and seitan, so people can try things they’ve never heard of.”
Introducing people to vegan foods is one of the driving factors of NH VegFest, which DesRoches said purposefully has an educational focus.
“We both believe in being vegan first of all, and a lot of people make decisions without having all the info so we’re trying to get as much info out as we can,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to take on if you know other people are doing it.”
Multiple speakers and instructors will present throughout the day, some focused specifically on diet, like Jennifer Burzycki’s talk called “Reversing the Effects of the Standard American Diet” and Mark Dillon’s “Simplify Your Path to Plant-Based,” while others take on broader foodie discussions like Andy Siver, a vegan farmer, fermenter and homesteader in Maine who will share about growing microgreens, shoots and sprouts and give an introduction to fermentation, and chef Mary Lawrence who will share tips for those transitioning to a vegan diet and give a cooking demo. 
The educational aspect reaches further than the nutritional and dietary component of veganism too, with Tim VanOrden’s discussion of “A Compassionate Approach to a Plant-Based Diet.” Business owner Cayla Mackey will lead “Beyond Food and Vegan Fashion,” a look at non-food vegan items and surprising places one might find animal products. DesRoches is looking forward to this discussion in particular, noting that this aspect of veganism may take many people by surprise. 
A number of vegan-friendly vendors will set up for the day selling food, clothing and artwork or sharing information, like New Hampshire Animal Rights, Greater Keene Wildlife Rehab and Sanctuary, Pembroke FitWorks, Rubywater Jewelry and Well on Wheels, to name a few. 
“There is music and aromatherapy and places to go and bring kids and we have a food truck coming called The Farm Concessions from Keene,” DesRoches said.
New this year is a vegan drum circle, led by Sandra Koski, which involves learning basic rhythms before playing a few songs and drum circle games. Drum skins are typically made of animal hide, so for this circle guests are asked to bring their own non-animal skin drums or try one of the extras provided. 
Live music and vendors’ tables will be set up in the main multipurpose room with two classrooms holding the educational sessions throughout the day. People are welcome to stay for the entire day or drop in for a specific workshop and a bite to eat. 

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