Once again, Veggie Fest continues to grow.
After the event was moved back to its original home at the Science of Spirituality Center in Naperville last year, it finds itself back at Benedictine University in Lisle from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 12-13.
“Last year it got to be so large, we had to move part of the festival onto the parking lot. That’s not as nice,” said Jonathan Kruger, one of the festival coordinators. “While here, the whole thing is going to be on the beautiful grass area.”
With construction of a new building on the Science of Spirituality campus now underway, Kruger said the annual healthy food and lifestyle festival will be at the university — where it was held in 2015 — until the near future.
“We’re happy to be back at Benedictine University,” he said.
More than 40,000 people attended the two-day festival last year, making it one of the largest vegetarian and lifestyle festivals in the world, Kruger said. Now in its 12th year, the family-friendly festival offers free admission, parking and a variety of activities.
“The secret of Veggie Fest is really that Veggie Fest is not for vegetarians. It’s really for everybody else. If it were vegetarians, we would have a small group. But it’s for everybody who’s interested in some form or another to be able to incorporate some aspect of good food and healthy living into their diet,” Kruger said.
A food court will feature a variety of vegetarian cuisine. Twenty-six food vendors will offer dishes from around the world, including Latin, Greek, Indian and American food.
“We try to mix it up,” he said. “We have all kinds of fun stuff for kids too like corn dogs and pizza, along with all the healthy stuff.”
Volunteers with the Science of Spirituality, which sponsors the festival, make all of the food.
“What’s unique about Veggie Fest more than any other festival you go to is we actually prepare and cook all the food. If you go to any festival, they bring in restaurants, they bring in food trucks,” Kruger said. “Our people take the time, make the effort, put in the extra TLC into the food making. And we cook, sell and prepare all the food. The prices are extremely reasonable, about $5 per meal.”
Attendees can also opt to take part in a 30-day vegetarian challenge.
“We provide a full kit of materials and some good information from Whole Foods and other organizations on how to prepare and how to be a vegetarian for 30 days,” Kruger said. “The last few years we’ve had 15,000 people sign up for the challenge.”
Whole Foods is among the fest’s many sponsors, and will expanding its role, he said.
“We’re very excited that Whole Foods is taking a much bigger part. We’re going to have a very, very large section just for Whole Foods,” Kruger said. “They’ll be out there connecting with people and handing out samples.”
Food and cooking demonstrations will be offered both days by chefs, cookbook authors and organizations. Also scheduled both days are talks by international guests and experts on topics including diet, lifestyle, meditation and environmental issues.
The keynote speaker is Sant Ranjinder Singh Ji Maharaj, who is the head of Science of Spirituality. He will speak at 3 p.m. Aug. 12 on “Detox Your Mind” and at 3 p.m. Aug. 13 on “Find Your Peaceful Inner Retreat.” Other guest speakers include Arran Stephens, founder and owner of Nature’s Path Foods; Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of Cook County Health and Hospitals System.
“This will be his third year speaking at Veggie Fest, and on Sunday he will be broadcasting his weekly radio show right from the festival on WVON,” Kruger said.
Also speaking is Saraswati Sukumar, professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Dr. Kim Williams, division chief of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center and immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology.
Rush University Medical Center will offer health screenings. “They’re going to be doing blood pressure screening, weight checks, cholesterol and blood sugar checks, health counseling,” he said.
Science of Spirituality, which Kruger said is “dedicated to transforming lives through the practice of meditation,” will have a tent available for people to learn about the practice.
“Today a lot of people believe meditation is a way to reduce stress and provide some inner peace and help us with all the pressures we have out there in the world,” he said. “We have a ‘learn to meditate’ tent where people can learn to incorporate meditation as part of their overall wellness program.”
New this year is a yoga tent, classes will be offered by Yoga by Degrees and Universal Spirit.
“They’re going to teach classes on the hour for about a half hour,” Kruger said. “We’re always trying to come up with new ideas.”
One of the largest tents is dedicated to children’s activities, including arts and crafts, games, face painting and musical entertainment. Each day at 5:30 p.m. is the Vegi-Kids Parade, for which children through age 16 are encouraged to dress as their favorite vegetable or animal.
Seating for 1,000 people is available in front of the music stage, where festgoers can hear the sounds of Motown, reggae and more. Students from Lisle Senior High School will be performing.
“People should bring their blankets and be ready to sit down, enjoy, eat and have fun,” Kruger said.
Kathy Cichon is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.
Veggie Fest 2017
When: Aug. 12-13
Where: Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Lisle
Tickets: Free admission
Information: 630-955-1200 or 800-222-2207; www.veggiefestchicago.com