15th Annual Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival

Posted on September 24, 2011 by


Come to Lee Park in downtown Charlottesville TODAY, 11am-4pm, to the FREE 15th Annual Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival!

Enjoy vegetarian and vegan food samples, listen to live performances, and learn about organizations “who want to make the planet a more healthy, sustainable, and compassionate place for all to inhabit and enjoy.”  There will also be an Adoption Fair, a “Kids’ Patch” activities area for children, and a silent auction to support the projects of Voices for Animals.

The festival is organized entirely by extremely devoted volunteers.  Here is what Marianne Roberts, who was involved from the start and ran the festival for several years, told Cville Niche about the festival!

1. How did the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival begin?

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris came up with the idea for the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival in 1997. At the time, Dave was President of the Board of Directors of Voices for Animals, the organization that has coordinated the festival in each of its 15 years. Dave’s vision for the festival was that the health benefits, environmental advantages, and humane aspects of a vegetarian lifestyle should be saluted and celebrated.

The 1997 vegetarian festival was held on a hot August day on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall near what was once the amphitheater. Dave, who was the official Festival Coordinator, came up with the theme for the first festival — Have a (Healthy) Heart — Go Vegetarian! Though Dave and the volunteers from Voices for Animals who helped him organize the festival were not sure anyone would come to this initial event, more than 1,000 people showed up.

With the success of the first festival, Dave and Voices for Animals decided to try a second festival in 1998 and a third in 1999, both on the Downtown Mall.  The festival grew in number of visitors and exhibitors each year, and the festival’s popularity led it to become a permanent annual project of Voices for Animals.

The festival moved to its current location, Lee Park, in 2000. Dave handed over the reins of festival coordination to other Voices for Animals‘ Board members because his young family started growing and he had less time to undertake large projects. All these years later, though, Dave’s imprint on the festival remains.

2. How has the festival grown over the years?

The festival has grown from approximately 1,000 visitors in its first year to approximately 6,000 visitors currently, and from less than 20 exhibitors to more than 80.

Also, the festival has spawned several other vegetarian festivals, most notably the
Richmond Vegetarian Festival, which began in 2003. Voices for Animals‘ volunteers helped launch these festivals by attending their planning meetings and turning over copies of the Charlottesville festival’s key dates lists, project budget, exhibitor contracts, Excel spreadsheets, and other planning documents so that organizers of these new festivals wouldn’t have to start from scratch.

3. How did pet adoption get linked up with the festival?

In 2000, when the festival moved to Lee Park from the Downtown Mall, it found itself with room to host more exhibitors, so Voices for Animals brainstormed about how to best fill this additional space. The festival volunteers began by defining the festival’s target audience. They determined that a key segment of the target audience was companion animal owners and volunteers and staff at animal shelters. These people already cared about dogs and cats. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too big a jump for them to extend their compassion to farmed animals.

So, Voices for Animals created the festival’s Dog and Cat Adoption Fair in 2000 not only to help dogs and cats find permanent homes, but to attract dog and cat lovers to the festival, hoping that they would leave the event also loving farmed animals.

4. Details about the live music?

This year, we had the help of The Southern Café and Music Hall’s Andy Gems in securing some great local performers and will have live music playing throughout the day. The performers and approximate starting times are:

Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival

Posted in: food