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The Vegfest Phenomena

[updated June 2012] Before the 1980s it was all more serious – vegetarians and vegans had congresses and conferences. Then it all began to change:

1981 – International Vegan Festival – started in Denmark. In the smaller European countries you don’t have to go far to be ‘international’.

The idea seems to have arisen from music and other arts festivals which go back a very long way in Europe. We have a record from 1948 that the German Vegetarian Union held what was formally called a ‘Vegetarian Week’, featuring a high proportion of music, literature and art – and they informally referred to it as a ‘festival’.

There was a similar tendency in British and American vegetarians, as far back as the 19th century, to refer to an event informally as a ‘festival’, though the official title was always a more formal conference or congress.

1985 – Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair – this seems to have been the first of this kind of event, more recently renamed as a Festival, joining the trend.

By the mid 1980s – the North American Vegetarian Society had been running an annual North American Vegetarian Congress for ten years, then they renamed it as the ‘Vegetarian Summerfest’ – subtitled ‘Annual Conference of the North American Vegetarian Society’. It was almost certainly the Americans who began the general word shortening process.

In the age of the keyboard, and more recently the mobile phone keypad, it took too long to write all those formal titles. So these vegetarian and vegan festivals became Veg Fest, then VegFest, the just a new single word: Vegfest.

This doesn’t seem to have made it into any of the bigger dictionaries yet, though Wikipedia has a Vegfest page and some online dictionaries are beginning to absorb that.

We have a definite record of a DC VegFest in 1997, it would interesting to know about any earlier uses of the name.

I found below some vegetarian/vegan festivals around the world, with a lot of variations in the official titles, but many of them known locally as ‘the vegfest’ – how long before that becomes a standard?

Meanwhile IVU now has a series of World Vegfests rotating around the world, especially in developing countries, partly in the hope that where we help to launch the idea it might continue as an annual event in the same place.

This year, 2012, we’re in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 2014 in Africa; 2015 South America; 2016 India or the Middle East; 2017 Europe – often combining with local events.

Some current variations of annual Vegfests – the logos on this page are borrowed from many of them. No doubt there are a lot more that I’ve missed:

Adelaide Vegan Festival
Melbourne World Vegan Day Festival
Sydney Cruelty Free Festival

Ottawa Veg Fest
Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival
Veg Fest Vancouver

Paris Vegan Day Festival

Tampere Vegfest

Tokyo Vegefesta
Kyoto Vegetarian Festival
Nagoya Vegefes

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Brighton Vegfest
Bristol Vegfest
Cardiff Vegetarian Festival
East Midlands Vegan Festival
London Vegan Festival
Manchester Vegan and Vegetarian Festival
West Midlands Vegan Festival

Asheville Vegfest (NC)
Bethlehem VegFest (PA)
Boston Vegetarian Food Festival
Central Florida Veg Fest
DC VegFest
Denver VegFest Indy Veg Fest (Indianapolis)
Michigan VegFest
New Orleans Vegan Food Festival
North East Florida Veg Fest
Northwest VegFest (OR)
NYC VegFest
Richmond Vegetarian Festival (VA)
San Francisco World Veg Festival (CA)
VegFest Houston (TX)
Worcester VegFest (MA)
Washington Vegfest (Seattle)
Vegfest (redirects to VegNews magazine)

World : International Vegan Festival (biennial since 1981)

The Chair of the IVU International Council, Marly Winckler, writes: “We have in Brasil since 2008 a kind of Vegfest - we call it Salao Vegetariano, and we have many smaller Vegfests in different cities organized by SVB (Brazil VegSoc) Groups and we are planning now a big annual Vegfest - with this very name. This is the trend.”

For more about vegan history, see my free e-book: ‘World Veganism – past, present and future.” It has now been updated to include the above article, and more. You can download it for free, or replace your existing copy at: (5mb)

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