Sold-Out RI VegFest Proves Going Vegan is Hot

More than 1,000 tickets were sold and eighty-five vendors are booked for Sunday's #Plantcurious event of the year.

RI VegFest may be sold out for this Sunday, February 23, but its popularity has proven that more plant-based events are welcome here in the Ocean State.

Event coordinator, consultant and vegan of twenty-plus years, Robin Dionne has teamed up with Jim Nellis of Rhode Island Food Fights’ fame and BJ Mansuetti, brand director for Narragansett Beer, to bring together as many vegan-friendly businesses as they can under one roof this Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence. The instant approval of the sold-out RI VegFest has led the co-founders to continue spreading vegan awareness. They sold out of 1,000-plus tickets weeks before the date of the event. They are already orchestrating a follow-up plant-based event called the Vegan BBQ and Beer Fest, which they plan to host in September, and they already know RI VegFest will return next year.

VegFest is Rhode Island’s first vegan festival, and it was created to promote a fun plant-based lifestyle to the broader food community here in Little Rhody. If you’ve already been lucky enough to nab a ticket to Sunday’s vegan extravaganza, you have a lot to look forward to, including veg-friendly food and drink from presenting sponsors, including Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar, Garden Grille and The Grange and food, drinks, goods and info from up to eighty-five vendors. Other sponsors include Narragansett Beer, which will host a bar, Plant City, which will have food available for purchase and New Harvest Coffee Roasters, which will be on site serving beverages.

Co-founder Robin Dionne always wanted to organize an event like this, and she’s been working with Nellis for years to organize other events, including bringing Ted Talks to Providence. “I always wanted to do a vegan festival and we talked about it, but we could never find the time,” Dionne says. “This year, we felt the timing is right. I am always interested in hosting an event I would like to attend.”

Even if you are not vegan, or you weren’t able to get your hands on a ticket, you can still explore the #Plantcurious movement, which means refraining from eating meat and/or dairy a few times a week. The festival will feature eighty-five vegan-friendly businesses, artists, makers, restaurants, nonprofit organizations, chefs, writers and more. There will be plenty of vegan food vendors offering small samples and food for purchase. The festival involves not only fully vegan restaurants, but also businesses that offer vegan-friendly options in addition to their regular menus. Vendors at RI VegFest include Barret’s Garden fauxcotta cheese, Miss Vegan Bakery, Like No Udder vegan ice cream, AS220, Knead Doughnuts, Celebrated dessert shop, Providence Bagel, the Granny Squibb Company beverages, Ana’s Sweet Treats, Basil and Bunny popup vegan food cart, Blush Bakeshop, Champagne Treats, Enjoyful Foods vegan paleo cacao products, the Vegan Nest restaurant, Sanctuary Herbs, Urban Greens Co-Op Market, Southside Community Land Trust, the Vegan Potter, White Muck screen printed vegan and cruelty free clothing, Camberville Dog Treats, Veg Jaunts and Journeys, the Artist in Residence and many more.

Most of the vendors are businesses the trio has worked with in the past. “We are really excited to have all these businesses together under one roof,” Dionne says. “It’s not a lifestyle people have to be intimidated by; it’s meant to be fun. You can make small changes to your diet, and try food from places you might not normally go to. Providence has changed so much, and there are so many more options. There’s a vegan community here now.”

Dionne remembers Julians as the first restaurant in Providence where she dined on vegan food. And this week, in honor of the inaugural RI Veg Fest, Julians restaurant in Providence will offer a special three-course prix-fixe dinner special all week through Saturday for $25 per person. The dinner involves a first-course choice of tomato-coconut-miso soup with shaved fennel and smoked tofu or endive and arugula salad with watermelon radish, orange, feta and soy sesame vinaigrette; a second course choice of grilled romaneso “steak” with turmeric-roasted parsnips, garlicky mashed purple potato and celery root puree or celery root “scallop” with smoked tofu-chickpea-tomato stew and dressed pea greens; and a vegan chocolate brownie with banana almond ice cream for dessert.

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