Last Sunday, Tucson locals attended the 3rd annual VegOut! Tucson Vegan Food Festival to celebrate everything vegan.
According to their website, VegOut! is a celebration of veganism, local businesses and locally sourced food that serves as an educational experience for all who attend.
A long list of vendors and restaurants gathered at Whistle Stop Depot for the festival. Jackfruit barbecue, prickly pear fruit juice and veggie burgers were among the many options offered at the festival.
Between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., various food presentations, cooking demos, lifestyle seminars and live entertainment offered free vegan merchandise and various food samples.
Vegan wellness and fitness speakers were also in attendance at the festival, discussing and sharing their vegan lifestyle stories.
Keynote speaker Lisa Villegas, chief meteorologist from KOLD-13 News, is a vegan of two years.
“I turned vegan when I was in my early 30s and I had to google everything. I started reading all of the nutritional labels, and I had to basically teach myself,” Villegas said. “It was a lot of fun, and I felt so energized.”
Villegas, the self-proclaimed “Vegan Meteorologist,” also spoke to festival attendees about nutrition and fitness.
“I’ve been in the best shape of my life in my 30s versus my 20s. I could barely get out of the couch. I could barely work out,” Villegas said. “My best workouts as a meat eater are my worst ones as a vegan without a doubt. I have so much energy, it’s amazing.”
The festival hosted several Tucson vegan companies, many of which sold plant-based and cruelty-free items and products. The event also offered numerous natural homeopathic services and therapies from many local small businesses.
Imani-Adjua Johnson — a local yoga instructor, reiki practitioner and holistic wellness and life coach — shared her journey to becoming vegan and her current lifestyle with festival attendees. Johnson also talked about issues concerning body image in the vegan community.
“If you are somebody that is on this journey, and especially starting out, know that what you look like has nothing to do with it,” Johnson said. “If you know that you’re doing what you want to do for your journey — for your wellness for your body — then focus on that.”
Johnson addressed the topics of classism and community awareness within the vegan community. Speaking directly to those who are currently living a vegan lifestyle, Johnson spoke of how they can use their nutritional knowledge to spread awareness in their communities.
“Know that, especially if you’re somebody in the black community or if you consider yourself a person of color, that you now have a means to help educate because sometimes, we don’t always get access to certain things,” Johnson said.
Richard Ochoa, an elementary school teacher’s assistant and festival attendant, said that local festivals like these help spread vegan awareness and educate locals on nutrition and health.
“I think it is awesome that we are able to have festivals like this one here in town and have so many people involved and even attend,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa said he switched to a vegan lifestyle earlier this year and found these kinds of events helped him learn more about the vegan community and meet new people that share the same interests.
“What is really cool about this festival, besides the food, I get to try is the community and people here, the people I get to meet,” Ochoa said. “I can get to know people who share the same passion for vegan food and share the same lifestyle as me and learn from them as well.”
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