Herbivores in Harrisburg, rejoice: the city’s first festival showcasing vegan and vegetarian food is coming downtown this fall.
VeggieFest, an all-inclusive exposition featuring plant-based foods, craft drinks and healthy lifestyle products, will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23 in Strawberry Square on 3rd Street. The ticketed event will also include demonstrations and speakers, according to Sara Bozich, an organizer.
Bozich said that she and Brad Jones, CEO of Harristown Enterprises, which owns Strawberry Square, have been talking for years about bringing a healthy living festival to Harrisburg.
“We wanted to do something new for the community,” Bozich said. She added that the event is open to anyone—vegan, vegetarian, or curious carnivore—who wants to learn about a plant-based, locally sourced lifestyle.
Bozich reported that she has received great interest in VeggieFest from local and regional businesses. The growing lineup (confirmed vendors are listed below) includes craft breweries, cideries, restaurants and vegan/vegetarian-friendly food providers, as well vendors selling handicrafts and plant-based body products, she said. Vendors will pay a $25 fee for a spot in the venue, and local non-profit groups can sign up for free tables.
Brendalynn Armstrong, co-owner of Zeroday Brewery, supports the locally focused lifestyle that VeggieFest promotes.
“The focus of this event is healthy living, and we at Zeroday believe that beer can be integrated into a healthy lifestyle,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong added that most of Zeroday’s craft beers are vegan or vegetarian, and all are brewed with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
The Vegetable Hunter, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant on N. 2nd Street, will showcase some of its vegan menu items at VeggieFest. Owner Kristin Messner-Baker plans on bringing side salads and sandwich samples, as well as craft beers from The Vegetable Hunter’s in-house brewery.
“We only serve a vegan and vegetarian menu so this is an exciting opportunity to reach out to people who may not have been to our restaurant and brewery,” Messner-Baker said.
Jones, who counts four vegans among his family members, said that he wanted to host a plant-based food festival after attending similar events in other cities. He believes that VeggieFest can raise the profile of healthy living in Harrisburg.
“We wanted to highlight that this city is vegan and vegetarian friendly,” Jones said. He hopes that at least 200 people will be able to attend the event.
The event was first promoted as the Harrisburg VegFest, but Bozich said that she and Jones rebranded to avoid confusion with vegan festivals by the same name.
Tickets for the event are $20 for the general public and $10 for students or designated drivers. Bozich and Jones say that the cover charge allows them to host an all-inclusive event that will also give back to the community.
“Your ticket price is going to get you a lot for that $20,” Jones said, referring to the samples, tastings, and entertainment available to ticket-holders.
Bozich added that the ticket proceeds will help cover overhead planning costs. She also noted that Harrisburg’s VeggieFest includes a philanthropic component: Proceeds from the event will benefit local nonprofit JumpStreet, an arts development organization in Harrisburg.
The Harrisburg VeggieFest will be held Saturday, Sept. 23, from 12 to 5 pm in Strawberry Square. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit hbgveggiefest.com.
Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District
Giant Food Stores
Reiki by Rickie
Zeroday Brewing Co.
Boneshire Brew Works
2050 State Brewery
Jack’s Hard Cider
Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar
The Vegetable Hunter
Yak N Yeti
The Fountain of Juice
Grape Cat Vegan Clothing and Accessories
Free and Thriving
young living essential oils
Animal Advocates of South Central PA
Harrisburg Area YMCA Center For Healthy Living
Author: Lizzy Hardison
Note, August 29: This story has been edited to include a quote from Kristin Messner-Baker.