The number of vegan eateries popping up across our state has to be heartening to those eschewing animal products in their food, whose restaurant options used to be a boring salad with a side of not much. And now there’s a festival starting up in RI to celebrate a love for all things veg. I recently sat down with Robin Dionne, co-creator of Rhode Island VegFest, Rhode Island’s first fully vegan food festival, to get the scoop on this vegtastic event that’s coming to PVD on February 23!
Morgan Capodilupo (Motif): So, how did a vegan food fest come to be?
Robin Dionne: Jim Nellis (from RIFoodFights) and I have been friends for years. We’ve loved working together and collaborating since meeting at a TedxPVD event in 2014. We’re both huge foodies, of course, and I’ve been a vegan since my teens. Jim’s a meat-eater, but was curious about plant-based and vegan diets. We coined the term “#PlantCurious” to describe that sort of thing — people who aren’t necessarily vegan, but want to learn more about vegan food, cooking and just the vegan lifestyle in general. VegFest is for everyone — vegan and PlantCurious alike! We’ve attended VegFests all over the US, and thought Rhode Island should join in the fun, too!
MC: What can guests expect from the event?
RD: Lots of fun! Hungry vegans and #PlantCurious folks happily eating yummy bites from not only well known vegan spots, but also smaller businesses and restaurants that may not be known for plant-based cuisine, but have been exciting to collaborate with nonetheless, like The Dorrance! Our main presenting sponsors are Rhode Island vegan/vegetarian stalwarts Wildflour Vegan Bakery & Juice Bar, The Grange and Garden Grille. We’ll also showcase several makers and vendors of vegan clothing, candles, shoes, accessories and more so you can shop to your heart’s content! All guests will also receive a $10 voucher to be used at one of our restaurant or retail partners following the event.
MC: Who are some of the vendors you’re excited to collaborate with?
RD: Becky Morris from Celebrated Co., who won the RI Food Fights Spectacular Cookie Smackdown two years in a row. Her vegan cookies actually beat out several non-vegan bakeries! As for libations, New Harvest Coffee will set up shop with their signature coffee, plus delicious vegan hot cocoa, and Narragansett Beer will have a bar pouring vegan-friendly beer. It’s a thing!
MC: Any fun non-culinary surprises?
RD: We are excited for a performance by The Tropigals, led by the fabulous Kristen Minsky! Her husband, Brian Oakley, is the general manager of Julians, one of the restaurants that really pioneered plant-based eating in Providence! Julians and sister restaurant Pizza J will be serving up bites at the Fest! We’ll also have Alex Eaves, a filmmaker and “Reuse Pro” who travels the country in his 98 square foot box truck home. He’ll have the box truck for people to see and will also be on hand to answer questions about sustainable living.
MC: What do you hope to accomplish with VegFest?
RD: We love to bring these restaurants and businesses to the forefront, as it can sometimes be hard for folks who follow a plant-based diet to attend an event or find restaurants where everything is vegan and diet friendly for them. Hopefully after they attend, they’ll have some new ideas for places to check out! We’re all about community building, and that’s what VegFest really is — an event for the RI Vegan Community and those who are curious about it as well. The plant-based lifestyle isn’t just about tofu anymore!
MC: One more quick question. Can I get #PlantCurious on a beanie hat?
RD: You’ll just have to wait and see!
RI VegFest takes place Sun, Feb 23 @ Waterfire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, PVD; VIP access 11 – 4pm (VIP Tickets are sold out); General admission Noon – 4pm; purchase tickets at eventbrite.com/e/vegfest-ri-tickets-66397888873