John and I heard about this free event just a few days ago, but knew we had to check it out. We loaded up the car with t-shirts from the store and 600 fliers printed up for the occasion and no idea what to expect.
Arriving at around 10:30, the line wrapped all the way around to the opposite side of the block. It ended up being a 3 hour wait to get in, but with our friend Ben’s help, we took turns giving out fliers and selling the Vegetables Feel No Pain and Burger Intervention shirts as our friend Ben held our place in line. With the weather holding steady in the mid-50s, it was “a great day to wait”, as one guy on his cellphone remarked behind us.
Inside, it was crowded, but definitely not unbearably so. Honest Tea was, predictably, the first table we saw – those guys go to everything. Loving Hut had some tasty mac and cheese with buffalo “chicken” for $1 I was happy to sample. Coconut Bliss featured the best strawberry ice cream I’d ever had, and Sweet and Sara was extremely generous with all different flavors of marshmallows.
One of the most pleasant surprises about the event were how many of the vendors were smaller or local companies. I guess we expected to see the biggest players like Amy’s or Edward and Son’s next to Honest Tea, but there were plenty of companies we’d never even heard of… which was great. Who wants to drive 4.5 hours for the things you can get at any grocery chain?
I was absolutely enamored with Foodswings’ sample of mac and cheese – we chose to head there for dinner after the event (I don’t know how John and Ben were still hungry).
In the end, the things I purchased (outside of a few hot foods) were products sold at irresistibly low prices, rather than “festival rates”. I’m still nursing a huge $2 bottle of Bao Kombucha, and I scored a big bag of Nutiva hemp seeds for $8. I would have liked to see the vendors giving out coupons – in fact, I was surprised that they weren’t. Coupons play a major factor in my grocery shopping and I was hoping to score some of those upscale products for more competitive prices after the fest.
The crowd was great, everyone seemed respectful of each other. “We gave out 600 fliers,” John noted, “and I haven’t seen a single one on the ground.” And the crowd was huge – did I mention we waited 3 hours to get in? I guess they weren’t expecting that kind of turnout – let’s hope they book a bigger venue next year. It’s awesome there is so much interest in vegetarian food.