On September 23 and 24 Poughkeepsie held the Hudson Valley Vegfest in the local Gold Gym Center. I attended the event on the first day which was a Saturday. It was about a ten minute drive from Vassar making it a highly accessible location for all the vegans at Vassar. An entrance fee of ten dollars was collected at the door but as a member of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) my admission was covered.
The festival brought an eclectic group of all ages to its doors. There was a great mix of families, students, and elderly people present. I even recognized some familiar faces of both students and professors from Vassar. There were approximately a hundred people at the convention at any one time. This festival was completely vegan, making the crowd primarily vegan. This Vegfest was oriented around vendors, activist groups, and nonprofits that were all looking to further the mission of increasing veganism for a multitude of reasons. It also worked to publicize some opportunities in the Hudson Valley and around the world that are not widely known. The booths ranged from [FoMu] which many people there credited with having the best vegan coconut milk icecream they have ever tasted to an animal rights group that is working towards banning horse races in the United States. There were also shirts, pins, and other merchandise for sale to advertise the vegan lifestyle and the reasons that people would make this lifestyle change.
Walking through the entire festival took approximately two hours. At this point I had tried a large number of taste testers from almost all of the food vendors. I had finally decided which booths I wanted to commit to. I decided to try the beet burger from the vendor called The Beet Box. When I was buying my burger I was intrigued to hear that the people running this stand were living in Texas and had made the trek to Poughkeepsie just for the Hudson Valley Vegfest. Even more astonishing, during the winter they are stationed in parts of Southeast Asia. The burger was amazing. It was definitely in the top three veggie burgers I have ever had. My second stop was [FoMu]. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to try what had been called the best coconut milk ice cream people had ever tasted. It tasted just like ice cream without the guilt of contributing to the carbon footprint that milk has.
The Vegfest was a zero-waste function meaning that they separated their waste into trash, compost and recycle. The goal of this was to make the event as environmentally friendly as possible.
The vegan-inspired information was endless. In addition to the booths, there was also a stage where vegan activists went up and talked. The first speakers of the day were a vegan bodybuilding team. This group attends competitions and makes it a point to work on demystifying the myth that veganism is for weak individuals. The bodybuilders showed off their muscles by lifting weights right on stage. The star of the show was Vegan Evan: a five year old who chose to go vegan for the sake of the animals. He presented himself as a representative for a group called Animal Hero Kids and performed two raps in support of veganism. The crowd went wild as they saw such a young supporter for the cause of veganism.
Overall the Vegfest was a great success. It helped inform the Hudson Valley community on opportunities in the area and around the world. It also influenced people to get involved in the local area. A sense of community was built and there is no longer a belief that there are no vegans in the Hudson Valley.