Everyone Romaine Calm

Appears in the July 2024 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

Veggie Fest Chicago returns to Lisle after five years

Veggie Fest Chicago

About 1,000 unpaid volunteers from more than 20 countries will make the pilgrimage to Danada South Park in Lisle on August 10 and 11 to host one of the country’s largest celebrations of plant-based cuisine and healthy living in the country: Veggie Fest Chicago.

The logistics required to organize this event, which is returning after a five-year hiatus, are enough to make the Army Corps of Engineers break into a sweat. Generators must be set up to bring power and water to the secluded park. One hundred vendor kiosks, including sprawling wellness and meditation tents, must be erected. And most daunting of all, volunteers must taste-test, prepare, and serve enough vegetarian offerings to satisfy 15 acres of hungry guests.

Stressed out just reading that last assignment? Don’t be. Members of the Science of Spirituality International Meditation Center, who’ve run the festival since 2005, are dedicated to practicing meditation to alleviate life’s many stressors, including organizing an event of this scale.

Food offerings include Caribbean-style fried rice. Vegan pizzas from a couple who used to run a pizza parlor in New York. Dosas from Ravi Nagubadi, who helms the Art of Dosa in Chicago. And vegan ice cream from Palazzolo’s Artisan Dairy in Fennville, Michigan.

Volunteers say they come help out because they can see the impact that the fest has on people’s lives. Through the years, it’s become a kind of pattern: Food lovers and families—folks who might not be able to articulate the difference between mindful meditation and a short nap—are lured in by the fest’s reputation for great food, only to discover they can experience cooking demos and wellness techniques for a better lifestyle.

“Our goal,” says event organizer Jonathan Kruger, “isn’t to convert people to vegetarianism but to help people incorporate healthy practices into their daily lives, whatever way they see fit.”


Photo: Veggie Fest Chicago