Veggie Fest: Good Food, Healthy Living

Naperville, Illinois

August 9-10, 2014

Banana and Giraffe at Veggie Fest

Banana and Giraffe at Veggie Fest


The real reason we spent an afternoon at Veggie Fest was to be outdoors. Summer was nearly over. I imagined we were going to some kind of glorified farmer’s market, and that was fine. Maybe I could pick up some peaches and tomatoes. Pretty lame, but that’s how it was.

The first inkling that this was different was the complimentary shuttle van between the fest and the parking lot. How much space did a few produce stalls take up if you couldn’t walk there? As we approached the entrance (free admission), we spotted acres and acres of white-canopied tents along with a dozen or so costumed characters: clowns, a stalk of celery, a banana, a cluster of grapes, a giraffe. Reggae music played in the background.

Turns out, Veggie Fest is a two-day celebration of the vegetarian lifestyle. There are other such festivals around the country, but this one is among the largest and oldest. The host sponsor since 2005 has been the Science of Spirituality, a multi-faith, global organization dedicated to personal transformation through meditation.

I’m not a vegetarian, much less a vegan, but I do feel a tad guilty whenever I eat meat, chicken or fish. I was curious to learn more.

At Veggie Fest, more than 100 exhibitors and vendors generously shared their knowledge and samples. Their ranks included food companies, purveyors of beauty and skin care products, yoga instructors, holistic dentists, chiropractors, publishers, nonprofits like Mercy for Animals and the Christian Vegetarian Association–and even a vegan travel agent. Humanitarian drives collected blood and non-perishable vegetarian food items for those in need.

Freshly grilled veggie kabobs

Freshly grilled veggie kabobs

At the Nada-Chair booth, we took a seat and were bound with a harness-like contraption that looked kinky, but it wasn’t. It wraps across your lower back and around your knees in a way that supports the spine and forces proper posture. Who knew just sitting upright for ten minutes could be so therapeutic?

Lectures and cooking demonstrations were conducted all day. Some were in Spanish. The keynote speaker was meditation guru Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, who heads up the Science of Spirituality. Other sessions covered organic veggie gardening and helping children become healthy eaters. A chef from Whole Foods Market showed how to make vegan chocolate pudding. The recipe uses mashed avocado for a creamy consistency and dates for sweetness. The result was yummy and plenty chocolate-y.

On the menus in the for-purchase food court were kabobs, salads, sushi, falafel, samosas, pizza, hot dogs and smoothies–all veggie style, of course.

While all this eating was going on, we were entertained by a carnival of musicians, jugglers, face-painters, a magician and a costume parade.

The costume parade lends a carnival flavor at Veggie Fest

The costume parade lends a carnival flavor at Veggie Fest

All too soon, the day came to a close. We’ll definitely be back next year. On our way home, we stopped at the grocery store for peaches and tomatoes.


The Art Ladies

March 4, 2011

The Art Ladies at Ten Chimneys

I call them the Art Ladies. Actually, they are the Community Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago, but that’s way too long for everyday conversation. I’m a member of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton chapter, and our purpose is to look at art. Any kind of art. Art that hangs on the walls of the Art Institute, for sure, but also glass, tile, architecture, sculpture, fashion and mausoleums in the Chicago area and beyond. And we eat and shop for souvenirs. About once a month we board a very nice bus and go someplace, such as Ten Chimneys. That’s the former estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who were Broadway legends between 1930 and 1960. Ten Chimneys is in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin.

My favorite outing was the Chicago cemetery tour. We first visited Graceland Cemetery, a Victorian-era resting place, where many of the city’s founders and notables are buried. Among them are Bertha and Potter Palmer, who sold his retail emporium to Marshall Field, and architects Louis Sullivan and Daniel Burnham. Then we went to Bohemian National Cemetery, a working-class burial ground that embraced 143 victims of the 1915 Eastland boat capsizing in the Chicago River. Such a contrast between the rich and the poor! Many of the markers at Bohemian are sculptures of branches or cut-off trees, which signify lives cut short. At Graceland, the monuments are stately and the landscape is lush.

Another good day was themed around angels. We bussed to the Art Institute for a presentation on how angels are portrayed in art throughout the ages. We learned the differences between archangels, cherubim and seraphim. Then we lunched “in the heavens,” on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building. In the afternoon, we viewed the 14 human-sized angel sculptures at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

The Art Institute has 16 Art Ladies groups. Our group is the largest, with about 350 members. Occasionally we meet for lunches or desserts at a nearby banquet hall, and art experts come to give presentations. We’ve had programs on art restoration and on fashion during Jane Austen’s lifetime.  At those events, some of the Art Ladies wear suits. And hats, even.

The Art Ladies take a break during the summer, but that’s when I look forward to receiving my new program booklet in the mail. I can hardly wait to see where we are going next.