VegFest returns with an in-person, plant-based festival | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

VegFest returns with an in-person, plant-based festival

click to enlarge VegFest returns with an in-person, plant-based festival
CP Illustrations: Lucy Chen
After a smaller-scale series of pop-ups in 2020, Pittsburgh VegFest is returning in person for its 2021 festival. Attendees can sample vegan dishes from local restaurants and food vendors, shop at local small businesses, and meet animal-friendly nonprofits — all while listening to live music from local bands and musicians.

“The excitement we have seen from Pittsburgh and surrounding for VegFest has been so positive and overwhelming and, honestly, makes us so excited for the event,” says VegFest co-founder Leila Sleiman. “It was always our goal to display and promote the best veg food options in the city, the talented crafters, and small businesses and the animal organizations.”

The seventh annual VegFest will take place on Sat., Aug. 21 in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The festival will be free for all to attend, kicking off with the Happy Vegan Pet Walk, led by local celebrity pig Doc the Pig, before opening up for attendees to visit vendors and enjoy a free bounce house and obstacle course, climbing wall, and face painting.

The festival began in 2015, sponsored by Justice For Animals, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit founded by Sleiman and Natalie Fristick. Now, VegFest is a standalone event, one that has been voted multiple times as the Best Food Festival in Pittsburgh City Paper’s Best of Pittsburgh readers’ poll.

Due to the pandemic in 2020, Sleiman and Fristick had to get inventive with connecting vendors to Pittsburghers interested in vegan food. They created a series of six weekend pop-ups around the city with pre-sales to keep attendance low, and encouraged people to shop VegFest vendors online.
click to enlarge VegFest returns with an in-person, plant-based festival
Photo: Courtesy of Kate Hellett
But making the transition back to a fully in-person festival this year has been easy for the pair, since the founders have five years of experience with preparing and running the festival. Since necessary safety precautions continue to change as COVID cases rise in Allegheny County, Sleiman encourages attendees to follow all local and state guidelines at the time of the festival.

More than 50 food vendors will be in attendance, including Onion Maiden, Allegro Hearth X B52, and Pitaland. A variety of beverages — caffeinated, alcoholic, and otherwise — will also be available from vendors such as Pittsburgh Juice Company, Black Forge Coffee, Treecup Tea, and Wigle Whiskey. For those craving a sweet snack, Sugar Spell Scoops will offer cashew-based ice cream, and Valkyrie Donuts will have vegan treats, among others.

The festival will also feature nearly 40 small businesses selling clothing such as Goods and Evil Clothing, Grape Cat, and Closet Rehab, and artists including Snail Berry Art and Modrnwitch Illustrations. Vendors selling books, jewelry, soap, doula services, meal prep services, and more will also have tables.

Plus, attendees will be able to talk to representatives from animal nonprofits such as Plant-Based Pittsburgh, Vegan Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Vegan Society. Animal rescue organizations, such as Save Our Strays and Animal Friends Sanctuary will also be present, three of which — Biggies Bullies, Hello Bully, and the Proper Pit Bull — are dedicated to pit bulls, a collection of dog breeds often viewed with the misconception that they are inherently aggressive.

While exploring and visiting various vendors, attendees will also get to listen to live music from musicians and bands like Fox Chapel native Sloane Simon, who was a contestant in Season 19 of American Idol. Jay Michales, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, The Optimists, Truth and Rites, Dinosoul, and Normal Creatures will also perform throughout the late morning and afternoon.
Pittsburgh VegFest. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., Aug. 21. Allegheny Commons Park, North Side. Free.

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