*CenteredinTheHeartSpace* Chicago Tribune Article: Veggie Fest to descend on Naperville this weekend
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Subject: *CenteredinTheHeartSpace* Chicago Tribune Article: Veggie Fest to descend on Naperville this weekend
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Veggie Fest to descend on Naperville this weekend
Event expected to attract estimated 10,000 people starting Saturday
By Ted Gregory
Chicago Tribune Reporter
11:12 PM CDT, July 31, 2008
Thirty miles and an ethos from the site of the Taste of Chicago gorgefest, crews are setting up for a celebration that might be considered odd in a suburb of the city once known as Hog Butcher for the World.
It's called Veggie Fest, and it's in Naperville, the same city that hosts Ribfest, an annual four-day celebration that draws 250,000 people.
At Veggie Fest, organizers hope for a record turnout, maybe 10,000, or about 4 percent of Ribfest's masses. Those who visit can attend programs on vegetarian cooking for dummies, vegetarian soul food, even something called Rah Rah Raw, among other offerings.
But this weekend's celebration of eating low on the food chain is more than a community incongruity. It's a merger of history and contemporary buzz, a small symbol of the building momentum behind vegetarianism. It may mean that it's hip to be veg.
"It's no longer considered this leftist, hippie thing," said Peter Manseau, editor of Search magazine, which calls itself "a non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian magazine exploring the intersection of science, religion and culture."
"Twenty years ago," added Manseau, an avowed carnivore, "if you said you were a vegetarian, people would ask, 'Why would you do that?' Now, people say, 'Wow, that's really cool that you've done that. I wish I could do that.' "
Veggie Fest is sponsored by and on the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Center, at Naperville Road just north of Warrenville Road. The center is a global, non-profit, ecumenical organization committed to a spiritual way of life through meditation. About 2,500 people attended the first, in 2005, and nearly 5,000 came out for the second, in 2007.
This year, organizers have distributed 75,000 brochures, increased newspaper, radio and TV advertising and have added a second day to the festival—all of which have fueled confidence of a high turnout.
"We've got 24 porta-potties," Veggie Fest manager Jonathan Kruger said Thursday while walking the 5-acre site, where crews have erected 100 tents. "That was a big debate—how many porta-potties we should have."
Leonardo da Vinci; Mohandas Gandhi; author, philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau; and playwright George Bernard Shaw were vegetarians. So are Paul McCartney and Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, who maintains he performed his best as a 30-year-old vegetarian.
But for as long as polling has been done on vegetarianism in the U.S., the percentage of adult vegetarians has hovered around 3 percent, keeping pace with the increase in population.
The number of vegetarian offerings on restaurant menus—haute and low cuisine—has risen dramatically in the last 15 years. And this year's National Restaurant Association "What's Hot & What's Not" survey of chefs showed that locally grown produce and organic produce rank second and third.
Liz Burke disagrees. The 24-year-old Chicagoan became a vegetarian in January, about the same time she became a server at the Chicago Diner, a landmark vegetarian restaurant.
Her decision to go meat-free was a final step in a gradual movement, she said, motivated by concern for her health and the environment.
Research suggests vegetarians have lower cholesterol, decreased risk for heart disease and colon and breast cancer. And in 2006, the UN stated in a controversial report that raising cattle contributes more to global warming greenhouse gases than transportation.
"It's been really, really, really easy," Burke said of her shift, "and that's been somewhat of a surprise. I haven't regretted it at all."
She said she doesn't miss meat, either. Burke frequently cooks stir-fry, enjoys spicy Thai cuisine, nachos and the veggie burritos at Taco Burrito House near her Uptown apartment.
Don Emery said he is hoping for a robust turnout at Veggie Fest. Emery, chairman of the 2008 Ribfest, hadn't heard of the vegetarian celebration until told about it Thursday.
"No, I'm not worried," he said, chuckling when asked whether Veggie Fest might steal thunder from Ribfest. "I wish them well. For everybody who likes that kind of food, great. If I get a minute, maybe I'll pop over there and check it out. If it's as good as Ribfest food is, then they'll be successful."
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