Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick update!

One of the things with planning an event like this is that while I have great intentions about updating the blog with all the great things that are going on, we are all so swamped with work that updating the blog gets pushed off the list so many times that I forget about it. This doesn't mean that there's not great stuff happening: it's just that we're all so busy making it happen.

So, here's a little round-up of some great things to look forward to this year at Chicago VeganMania:

* We're having a Luxury Lounge this year, with live painters, comfortable seating, gorgeous vegan-themed pendants for sale, a graffiti wall, and, of course, works of art. We're really excited about this space, curated by DJ Veganinblack, who will also be spinning from her large collection, with a focus on 80s electronica. Never fear, noshers: there will be coffee and soft drinks as well as baked goods from our famous Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale here, too!

* Blythe, one of our fabulous volunteers, is busily coordinating you-so-want-these Swag Bags for the first one hundred in line age sixteen and over. Chock full o' vegan goodies from companies across the country, this is THE bag, friends. Figure out your transportation (we recommend train, bus or bike - a future blog post on transportation is forthcoming, I promise!) and get those feet in line!

* Our starting musical act, the very talented Giving Tree Band, has been getting a lot of airplay for their hypnotically melodic Circles on local station, WXRT and nationally. Their recently released album, The Joke, The Threat and the Obvious, debuted in the top forty Americana Airplay Chart. We are super excited to have them, and all our other entertainers, on board!

* Local Green Machine Gill Gillano has tossed her hat into our ring this year, and she is coordinating a Green Team, something we wished for last year but simply didn't have the volunteer power to dedicate to. This year we do, thanks to Gill. She will be coordinating the effort to make sure stuff gets properly recycled, food waste gets composted, and so forth. Gill needs people to be a part of this noble effort, just lending a hand during a short shift. Would you be part of the Green Team? Please let Karen, our volunteer coordinator, know at

* Did you see that link above? We need volunteers for all sort of fun things, such as: handing out Swag Bags, greeting new arrivals, handing out food samples, assisting some of our GORGEOUS chefs, helping to sell books, possibly picking up a speaker or a chef from the airport and getting a little one-on-one time, etc. How much fun would any of those jobs be? A LOT. Email Karen!

* We've finally got our schedule up, people! Doesn't that look amazing? Check out the bios for our speakers, chefs and performers, too, when you get a chance.

* Last year, as many of you know, we were flooded with the amount of people who joined us. That was our first year, and we were expecting it to be popular, but until you do it, you have no idea. Many of the food vendors didn't plan to bring enough food, and, indeed, some of them were sold out by 11:00 in the morning! This won't be the problem this year. The food vendors have all been vetted and are fully expecting an onslaught of hungry people and they will be stocked accordingly. Lots of drinks, too, this year. (Oops, we sort of forgot that whole hydration element last year: will not be a problem this year.) Also, thanks to pre-planning, the lines should be much shorter.

* We'll have an awesome children's space this year! It's all still forming, but some of the features will be: eco-crafts, a graffiti wall, and a mini-stage, where kids can have their performances videotaped. We're also introducing our "Be a Vegan Rockstar" photo booth, where everyone (not just kids) can get photogtraphed while giving an onstage performance. Want to be a part of this effort? You know the drill. It's going to be fun!

Okay, this is all off the top of a busy planner's head. But there will be all this and so much more. Vendors! Speakers! Cooking demos! A Luxury Lounge! Children's Space! The excitement is palpable and we're excited to have you be a part of it.

See you then!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vegans Rule the Trough, Part II – A Photo Essay

As promised, here is a photo gallery of Team VeganMania's triumphant win at the Brown Cow Sixth Annual Trough-Eating Contest. For story and commentary, see the previous blog post or click here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The winning VeganMania team (left to right): Ross Cannon, Jeff Olichwier and John Beske

Last night, Chicago VeganMania entered a team in the 6th Annual Brown Cow Ice Cream Trough Eating Contest. The Trough is a gargantuan sundae containing 21 scoops of ice cream with massive amounts whipped cream, cherries and sprinkles. As reported yesterday, this was the first vegan team that ever entered the contest, and it required the creation of a separate all-vegan version of the concoction, which contained three scoops apiece of seven different flavors of Chicago SoyDairy's Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, and a specially blended non-dairy whipped cream.

The VeganMania team completely dominated the event, obliterating the concoction in 6:52, or slightly more than half the time of the nearest competitor. In fact, when officials shut down the competition after 22 minutes, only three teams had finished at all.

The reasons why the VeganManiacs so thoroughly devoured the competition may take more time to understand. No one on the team had ever done this sort of thing before and they only decided less than two days before to enter, so there was no time for preparation. They faced a variety of teams from ambitious college students, to guys who look like they'd be good at this sort of thing. Yet, at the point when Ross, John and Jeff set down their spoons and triumphantly thrust their arms in the air, most of the other troughs looked as though they had barely been touched.

More significantly, while the vegan team was dancing and celebrating, and all went home to nice dinners, the other competitors were clutching their stomachs and wearing pained expressions.

One reason was Jeff Olichwier, who easily consumed 40% of the ice cream himself, easing the load of Ross and John, and whose first words after victory were, "Great, where's dessert?", but that still doesn't account for the vast dominance.

At least one other team's coach was quick to call foul. "These guys had a completely different product", said the white-haired man, whose name we didn't feel compelled to collect since we're not pretending to be a reputable news organization. "Their spoons slid right through it like it wasn't even there!"

"It's true we'll have to put an asterisk next to this one on the plaque," conceded Brown Cow owner Connie Brown. "But we very carefully measured everything. Their trough had the same number of scoops, the same caloric and sugar content, the same air density, everything."

Is the different chemical makeup of the product responsible or may victory be at least partially attributable to the nature of the vegan diet? A training guide for eating contests suggests that competitors train by eating a large amount of low-calorie high fiber and high water-content foods like fruits and vegetables that will stretch out the stomach allowing it to hold more food. Well, this is a pretty good definition of a vegan diet.

At the same time, humans did not eat dairy until a few millennia ago, and then only in northern European countries. It is said that the body needs to produce a special enzyme to digest dairy products, and that many people, particularly people whose ancestors are not from northern Europe, have difficulty producing this enzyme. That's why lactose intolerance is so widespread and why dairy is the most common allergen. Perhaps even people who can abundantly produce this enzyme still can't create enough of it to keep up with massive consumption such as a Brown Cow Trough.

"I think that if the other teams would have eaten the same thing we did, they'd have done better than they did," pondered VeganManiac Ross Cannon. "But we would have still beat them."

More commentary and a photo gallery to follow tonight.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tonight! Cheer on the vegan Super-Eaters!

Come witness the spectacle of extreme food competition as three brave VeganManiacs enter the fray at the Brown Cow Trough Eating Contest. The Trough is an intimidatingly huge sundae containing 22 scoops of ice cream with all the resplendent sauces, whipped cream, sprinkles, nuts and cherries. Each year, several intrepid groups of three super-eaters competes to see who can eat one of these monstrosities in the shortest amount of time.

There has never before been a vegan team competing in the Trough Eating Contest, and in fact none of the employees of the Brown Cow Ice Cream parlor can recall ever having assembled a vegan version of their famous abomination. But the Brown Cow, located in Chicago's near westen suburb Forest Park, has long been popular among vegans for it's inclusion of fine sorbets as well as tantalizing Temptation soy ice cream flavors from Chicago SoyDairy.

Anyone who has ever been to a vegan potluck knows that once we're presented with proper food, we can pack it in as well as anyone, and particularly around vegan ice cream we can be quite ravenous. So this year, we've decided to take the dairy cow by the horns and gently lead her to the nearest animal sanctuary by substituting at least a couple of weeks worth of her product with the healthier, more compassionate and more Earth-friendly organic soy variety.

The Maniacs searched high and low and came up with the ultimate vegan team. Jeff Olichwier, John Beske, and Ross Cannon are the types of guys who always get seconds and will eat right off your plate when you're not looking. They can each eat a lot of ice cream! They're good at this. And they'll need to be. They'll be competing against six teams of seasoned super-eating pros (who will all be consuming the traditional non-vegan Troughs).

Come cheer on the vegan gastronomical athletes, and check out some fine vegan ice cream for yourself in the process.

Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor
7347 Madison Street
Forest Park, IL

7:00 tonight.

Waking Up the Blog

Whoa! This blog has just taken a way too long of a break. If all the news you have received about Chicago VeganMania has come from this blog, you might get the impression that we're not doing anything at all or that perhaps Chicago VeganMania isn't even happening this year. Perish the thought! In fact, we'll be back in the same spot and way bigger and better even then before (if that is even possible).

Even while this blog was sleeping, the Maniacs have been super busy creating an outstanding event. We've persuaded some of the most incredible vegan heroes to join us at Pulaski Park on October 9th, and we have added a whole bunch of new attractions to make sure that everyone attending Chicago VeganMania has the most wonderful and exciting experience of the season.

In the next few days, we'll put out a flurry of posts designed to get you caught up with all our progress. There is so much to say. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Come to our Spring Shindig!!

Okay, the big day (well, the big day for the spring) is less than a week away, and we have lots of juicy details to share about Chicago VeganMania's Big Spring Shindig Fundraiser. We will have tons of tantalizing vegan food – all you can eat, in fact, from some of Chicago's best vegan restaurants. Here's the lineup: Soul Vegetarian, Veggie Bite, The Great Taste Café, Delicious Café, Cousin's Incredible Vitality, Green Spirit Raw Living, Upton's Naturals and more. Plus there will be an open bar featuring Death's Door vodka, Goose Island Beer, and lots of other wine and spirits, plus great soft drinks from Apple Rush. We'll also have some wonderful auction items including gorgeous gift baskets from Esutras, vegan bling from Snooty Jewelry, snappy couture and graphical goodies from Herbivore, and many other wonderful things. And everyone who comes will get a swag bag full of vegan treats and tchotchkes. Dance to the darkwave and house grooves of DJ Veganinblack, and hang with the some of most beautiful and enchanting vegan movers and shakers in Chicago.

It's all happening Saturday from 7:00-10:00pm at Framing Mode and Gallery at 1526 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago's South Loop. Tickets are $40 at the door, and only $35 in advance. Get yours now at!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Two VeganMania Heroes in the News

It's been a great morning to read the news today. Not only are there two inspiring stories about Chicago area vegans who have found exciting and fulfilling ways to bring the vegan lifestyle to the rest of the world, but both of these amazing entrepreneurs are part of the Chicago VeganMania core group, both were instrumental to the success of last year's event, and both are lending their considerable talents to making Chicago VeganMania 2010 the most incredible vegan event ever.

First, there is a lively and enriching interview on this morning with our own Leanne Maily-Hilgart, the wünderkind behind the beautiful coats and fashion of Vaute Couture. Leanne, who is already riding high from Vaute Couture's successful first season (not to mention her beautiful cover shot and story in the March-April 2010 issue of VegNews magazine), tells her story of vegan transcendence to the legions of Oprah fans, and goes on to dispel the five most common myths of vegan fashion. There's even a slideshow featuring some of Vaute Couture's gorgeous designs. Yay, Leanne!

Not to be outdone, CVM core group member Josh Alper and his talented Chef-Daughter Betty of the delectable Bot Bakery are featured in a tasty article in Daily Candy called Hot to Bot. Betty has perfected the art and science of delicious vegan and gluten-free pastries and other delicacies that can be had at Chicago's best local foods grocery store, Green Grocer, as well at Betty and Josh's wonderful Great Taste Café in the downtown Streeterville neighborhood.

Vaute Couture and the Bot Bakery are just two of the many exciting local vegan businesses who will be gracing the huge Chicago VeganMania festival on October 9 at Pulaski Park. We'll profile more of these wonderful businesses throughout the spring and summer as they make news (and they will!). But for today, let's savor the thought that we live in a city with such great vegan pioneers as Leanne, Josh and Betty.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Come To Our Spring Shindig Kickoff Fundraiser!

The season leading up to the massive 2010 Chicago VeganMania has officially begun with our first big tabling gig last weekend at the Family Farmed EXPO. We connected with a whole bunch of great people, and it really got us fired up for all the wonderful events and plans leading up to the Big Day.

Now we're ready to announce the most exciting thing we'll be doing all spring! On Saturday evening, April 10th, we're hosting a fantastic Spring Shindig at Framing Mode & Gallery in the South Loop. Here's a chance to hang out with Chicago's vegan elite and enjoy a variety of delicious vegan food from some of Chicago's best restaurants and an open bar featuring local spirits and other drinks. Plus, we'll have a silent auction, tasty tunes and atmosphere from DJ Veganinblack, and more to come from local cruelty-free vendors! You'll be among the first to hear about all the wonderful things we have in store for this year's Chicago VeganMania, and all the other ways we'll be celebrating and promoting Chicago's vegan community. Best of all, you'll be helping us create another milestone event that will show the world just how wonderful it is to be a vegan in Chicago.

Here are the details:
Chicago VeganMania's Spring Shindig
Saturday, April 10, 7-10pm
at Framing Mode & Gallery
1526 S. Wabash in Chicago's South Loop

Tickets at $35 in advance, and $40 at the door if there are any left. It's not a big space, so it's sure to sell out. Tickets are available online at

Join the fun. It will be a magic night!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Visit us at our first tabling event of the year!

The long, exciting road to Chicago VeganMania 2010 begins this Saturday at the UIC Forum in Chicago. We'll be tabling all day at the 5th annual FamilyFarmed EXPO. The EXPO is a big celebration of Chicago's local food scene. Now, we love Chicago, we love local, and we love food, so we're excited to be there to help build a synergistic connection between local farmers, food producers, restaurants, supermarkets, institutions, governments, and the public. There will be chef's demos (including Jo Kaucher and Kim Gracen from the Chicago Diner), workshops, a food court, more than 100 exhibitors, and of course, us. We'll be there all day sharing our plans for what is shaping up to be an amazing Chicago VeganMania 2010.

The Family Farmed EXPO is happening Saturday, March 13, from 10:00 - 6:00 at the UIC Forum at Harrison and Halsted near the UIC campus in Chicago. Tickets are $20 at the door, but cheaper online. Visit to learn more or buy tickets. See you there!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Calling All Vegan Musicians, Dancers, and Performers!

This October's Chicago VeganMania is one of the best venues in town to show off vegan talent to a mass audience. Last year, the event drew more than 1,500 spectators, most of whom watched one or more of the six performances we presented on the main stage. This year promises to be an even bigger and stronger spectacle, based on the enthusiasm of all last year's attendees, the resolve of all the people who were kicking themselves for not coming, and the strength of the marketing and social networking plan we have in place for this year. We will spend several weeks or months promoting each performer, and we'll have bios, photos and links to their websites sent out to thousands of vegans, vegetarians, and veg-curious people all over the country.

We are looking for musicians, singers, dancers, acting or comedy troupes, acrobats, and performers with special talents (like incredible jugglers or jump rope artists). Each act will perform on a gorgeous stage for about 30-45 minutes in front of a crowd that will likely number several hundred people.

Several acts have already applied, and we'd like to secure our lineup as soon as we can so we can begin promoting it, so we urge you to contact us soon.

If you have an act that you would like to have considered for Chicago VeganMania, please send us an email at

Note: since Chicago VeganMania is dedicated to showcasing our vegan culture and community, special consideration will be given to acts whose members are vegan or vegetarian.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti

Some of the people connected with Chicago VeganMania are using their ability to create delicious vegan goodies as a way to raise money for the earthquake victims in Haiti. If you have a desire to help a great and urgent cause (and/or a sweet tooth), please read on:

Two Vegan Bake Sales for Haiti

The first is Sunday, Jan. 31 from noon until 5:00 at Greenheart, 1911 W. Division. We need baked goods, buyers and people to help us spread the word. Please do any or all of the above! Money will go to Food For Life, a vegan disaster-relief food distribution charity and American Red Cross.

The second event is on Sunday, Feb. 7 from 11:00 – 5:00 at Renegade Handmade, 1924 W. Division. Same info otherwise as above.

Sign up to donate baked goods

Here's the Facebook page

We're Coming Back! Save the Date.

We've taken a bit of a hiatus with this blog, but that doesn't mean we've just been sitting around. Our core group has met several times already, and we have been quietly setting the ground for Chicago VeganMania 2010! We've already set a date and a venue:

Saturday, October 9
Pulaski Park Fieldhouse
1419 W. Blackhawk in Chicago
(same place as last year)

We haven't completely set the hours yet, but it will probably start at 10:00 again and last a bit longer than last year, probably until 6:00.

CVM2010 promises to be even bigger, better, brighter and more exciting that CVM2009. We are currently lining up sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and entertainers. We have also addressed last year's biggest problem: restaurants running out of food. We told them all it was going to be big, but most of our restaurant partners decided to play it safe and just bring small amounts of food. This year, they know better, and we can assure everyone that there will be a bountiful selection of some of the most delicious vegan cuisine in Chicago.

There will also be a several of peripheral events the same weekend: parties, concerts, get-togethers, etc., most of which will be sponsored by other like-minded organizations, but will alll be promoted in this space. And we're encouraging restaurants and other veg-friendly establishments to offer specials for the weekend. Our goal is to make Chicago a major destination for vegans and vegetarians from around the country and world during that weekend (and show the world that Chicago is a wonderful place for vegans).

So start looking for regular updates on this blog. In the coming weeks, we'll also be announcing some upcoming events including some great festivals we'll be attending, and an exciting spring fundraising event. We will also soon be releasing our first CVM2010 newsletter, so watch for information about how to get on the list.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Three Great Recaps...

We keep hearing so many stories from people about how they were blown away by Chicago VeganMania. There weren't a whole lot of people from the media there, but we did inspire a couple of really heartfelt and positive stories.

First, columnist Shamontiel, dropped in to check it out and ended up staying all day and then writing this wonderful column (which contains a nice photo album!).

And columnist Marla Rose (full disclosure: she was also a key organizer of CVM) wrote this beautiful recap.

Then, today, sent out this fantastic story and video.

We'll keep reposting stories like these as they come in.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

WOW! What a Day!

The first Chicago VeganMania festival is now history, and it is the general consensus among the organizers, participants, and attendees that it exceeded everyone's expectations! First, let's talk about the crowd. When the doors first opened at 10:00, the line of people waiting to get in stretched for more than two blocks, and there was a steady stream of people coming in all day until a few minutes before closing. We're still gathering the numbers, but all fours rooms werye pretty packed all day. The crowds overwhelmed the food vendors, many of whom had been expecting this to be a much smaller event (we tried to tell everybody it would be big, but no one predicted how big it would be), and several vendors ran out of food, some even before noon. Thanks to some heroic effort by several of them, notably Soul Vegetarian (who made three trips back to South 75th Street to load their truck full of more food!) everyone was eventually fed, and most were happy despite the long lines. As far as the food itself, there was a great variety from raw foods from Cousin's Incredible Vitality and Raw Creations, comfort foods from Soul Veg and The Chicago Diner, quick treats from Veggie Bite, Upton's Naturals, Great Taste Café, Cru Cacao, and Delicious Café, and a wonderful sampling of delectable goodies from Ste. Martaen vegan cheeses, Match (vegan) Meats, and Vega smoothies.

Then there was the entertainment! The mainstage was alive all day starting with pop punksters Circular Convention, a trio of 13-year-old girls who played with enough enthusiasm to set the whole place ablaze. Next, everyone was treated to an amazing performance of belly dance from Deserae, who, at one point, danced with a sword on her hip and another on her head. She was followed by the great singer-songwriter Bryan Harrell, who peppered his act with songs from his CD about our relationships with animals, "A Rare Breed of Love." He was followed by an electrifying performance of electronica from synth artist dreamlogicc, whose snakelike contortions matched the twist and turns of his music, and then the dance troupe Pyrotechnic, whose acrobatic spinning performance held the crowd in rapt attention. The day was brought to a close by the powerful funk-influence rock of Darmata, whose tight instrumentation and tongue-twisting vocals brought down the house.

Nearby, in the Gallery Hall, attendees enjoyed a gallery filled with the stunning works of six different woman artists, as well as a beautiful display of cruelty-free couture in the Compassion Fashion Gallery. They also strolled around tables bedecked with the wares of fashion, jewelry and bodycare vendors, all enveloped by a hypnotic bed of music laid down by DJs Peter Propaganda, Scarylady Sarah, and Veganinblack.

And across a hallway filled with tables manned by our sponsors and speakers, the Exhibitor Room hummed with the activity of dozens of booths from progressive companies and a vast array of nonprofits. One visitor from out-of-state couldn't believe his eyes, "You mean you have several vegetarian, vegan and raw communities?" The far side of the room was filled with the laughter of happy children as they built musical instruments and played games in the Children's Center.

Meanwhile, upstairs, the Speaker's Hall drew large audiences to hear wonderful presentations from EarthSave International's Caryn Hartglass, Nathan Runkle from Mercy for Animals, author and activist Dr. Will Tuttle, Dr. Michael Greger from the Humane Society, and Rae Sikora and JC Corcoran from Plant Peace Daily. I was working the mainstage all day, so I didn't get to catch much of the activity upstairs, but I've heard only great things about it. One man who followed family members into Dr. Tuttle's speech before planning to get a Salisbury steak from one of his favorite restaurants in the neighborhood, found himself suddenly ready to convert to a vegan diet.

All in all, it was an amazing, uplifting, and incredible day. There will be a lot more stories and photos to come as we all process the information from the day. In the meantime, we'd love to hear your reactions. Please feel free to comment about your impressions of the event.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Same dancers, different name

Chicago is far too vast and diverse of a place for even the most culturally aware among us to keep up with all the exciting changes that happen all around us. We have been informed that SPUNN, the dance troupe we had scheduled to perform at 2:30 pm, has dissolved. Not to worry, though. Key members of the troupe, including the exact ones we had scheduled to dance at Chicago VeganMania, have regrouped into an even more dynamic ensemble called Pyrotechniq. So now, Pyrotechniq is performing at 2:45.

Pyrotechniq is one of the country's premier fire-dancing troupes. And while the Chicago Park District won't let us use real fire in this elegant old building (and once you see the gorgeous space, you won't be able to blame them for that), you will still witness a breathtaking display of dexterity and athleticism as the dancers perform with spinning poi, lighted hoops and other props. You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's almost time!

It's been a very crazy last few weeks. Sorry we haven't kept the blog updated, but there are a million details in putting together an event of this scope.

And boy, what an event it has become! We have ten restaurants and food vendors, 46 other vendors, four wonderful live bands two dance groups, and three DJs, six nationally-recognized vegan speakers, an art gallery featuring the work of six great women artists, the Compassion Fashion Gallery featuring the latest in cruelty-free couture, a lively children's center, a Spectacle Parade, and so much more!

Here is the schedule for the speakers:

11:00 - Caryn Hartglass – EarthSave International
12:00 - Nathan Runkle – Mercy for Animals
1:00 - Dr. Will Tuttle – author of The World Peace Diet
2:00 - Dr. Michael Greger – Humane Society of the United States
3:10 - a workshop with Rae Sikora and JC Corcoran of Plant Peace Daily.

Here is the schedule for entertainment:

10:45 - Circular Convention – preteen product of Girl's Rock Chicago
11:30 - Deserae – cabaret style belly dance
12:15 - Bryan Harrell – acoustic folk music
1:15 - dreamlogicc – electronica
2:30 - SPUNN – high energy dance
3:15 - Darmata – funk rock

At 3:45 pm, a Spectacle Procession featuring children with dancers, musicians and others will wind through the building

In addition, DJ veganinblack, Peter Propaganda, and Scarylady Sarah will all be spinning 80s music and darkwave throughout the day in the Gallery Hall.

The food vendors include these fine restaurants: The Chicago Diner, Cousin's Incredible Vitality, Delicious Café, The Great Taste Café, Soul Vegetarian, and Veggie Bite, and well as these great vegan food companies: Cru Cacao raw chocolates, Match Meats, Raw Creations, Ste Martaen cheeses, Vega/Sequel Naturals, and Upton's Naturals.

Don't forget about the free swag bags for the first 100 people to come through the door.

We'll see you there. This is going to be amazing!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Get Up Early for Some Free Swag!

There are many great reasons to come to Chicago VeganMania, but here's a great reason to come early. Our vegan elves have been collecting products from great vegan companies across the country, and assembling them into Free Vegan Swag Bags for the first 100 people (age 16 & older) to come through the door. This in addition to free admission, five free "Grub Stub" sample tickets, free music and entertainment, and so much much more. So set your alarm clock. Come early and stay all day. Years from now, you'll want to brag to your grandkids that you were at the very first Chicago VeganMania, so you need to hang around long enough to pick up some big memories.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And Now, On the Main Stage...

Yes, we've mentioned in previous posts that one of the big rooms housing Chicago VeganMania has a gorgeous stage (it's a huge, handsome thing, surrounded by this stunning mural of allegorical figures in various stages of undress being observed by a pious monk that was painted in 1920 by a guy named James G. Gilbert). From the beginning, we decided that we needed to make good use of this thing. So we'll be setting up all the food vendors in the back half of the room, and putting tables and chairs closer to the stage, so people can hang out and catch some great entertainment.

And we're really excited about the wonderful entertainment that will fill that stage. We're still working out deals with a couple of acts, but we're ready to announce several of them right now.

dreamlogicc is the nom de plume of the soulful synth artist, Justin James. dreamlogicc's earthy rhythms and ethereal melodies create a lush soundscape that will add an exclamation point to the already ebullient mood of Chicago VeganMania.

Bryan Harrell is a highly gifted and compassionate singer/songwriter with a rich contemporary songbook that offers healthy respect for roots folk music.

Deserae will transport you to another time and place with her beautifully nuanced and innovative style of modern Egyptian and Lebanese cabaret-style belly dance.

and the dynamic funk/rock band Darmata will bring down the house with a powerful groove that blends a tight staccato rhythm section with rapid-fire vocals and some of the fattest, fuzziest guitar licks ever.

Add ten restaurant stands full of great vegan food, and you might find it hard to ever leave this room. But there is so much more to see and do – incredible speakers, the latest in vegan fashion, a great juried art show, dozens of amazing vegan businesses, crafters, and non-profit groups, and so much more. Chicago VeganMania is definitely the event of the season, so don't miss out!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two More Great Speakers!

While we are finalizing the entertainment on the main stage (we'll post about that as soon as we can – probably later this week), we are ready to announce that we have added two more amazing speakers to our already impressive lineup (see the post below about Nathan Runkle, Caryn Hartglass and Dr. Michael Greger). Rae Sikora and JC Corcoran are two much beloved and sought after speakers and pillars of the vegan community who have recently joined together to form a group and website called Plant Peace Daily (they've also recently joined together as life partners, so congratulate them when you see them). Here's a bit more about them.

Rae Sikora has been an activist for more than 25 years and has been teaching people to hone their critical thinking tools to help create a better planet. She cofounded of the Center for Compassionate Living and The International Institute for Humane Education, where she inspired and taught many people who have gone on to become some of the most powerful voices for compassionate change. I first met her there, way back in 1997, when Marla and I spent several days taking an incredible workshop with her and her then partner Zoe Weil. She has been one of my key inspirations and mentors ever since.

One of our other inspirations when we started building EarthSave Chicago was JC Corcoran, who at the time was running one of the country's best regional veg groups, VegMichigan. JC introduced himself to me about ten years ago when he told me how much he liked a Vegan graphic I'd done for the design of a Frisbee. Then he rolled up his sleeve to show the same design tattooed on his arm. JC has inspired thousands of people with his lectures and workshops on the power of plant foods.

Together, Rae and JC are practically an institution, and they're traveling the country spreading a message of peace, compassion and sustainability. We're excited to have them an Chicago VeganMania, and we know you'll come away from their presentations inspired and energized.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Going Grape at Critical Mass

So I am so into promoting Chicago VeganMania, that I'll go to extremes to make sure everyone knows about it. So I went right into the center of Chicago's street activist scene, Chicago Critical Mass.

If you're not familiar with Critical Mass, at evening rush hour on the last Friday of the month, hundreds (or in Chicago's case thousands) of cyclists take to the streets in a giant mass starting from a place where they can disrupt the greatest amount of automobile traffic (in Chicago's case, Daley Plaza). It's one part eco-revolution, one part consciousness raising, and about four parts party on wheels. The crowd are the exact kind of free thinking active colorful folks that we have designed Chicago VeganMania for. So in the place where the spirits of bicycle activism and vegan revolution merge, I decided to pedal downtown from Oak Park pulling a trailer carrying an oversized papier mache grapes costume, don said costume, and spread through the crowd to hand out flyers, before cruising with the mass of riders through the streets of Chicago wearing the same costume, which was neither easy nor remotely safe.

Despite being called a Fruit of the Loom guy more often than a couple of times it went very well. I handed out more than a 150 postcards, and had dozens of dare I say "fruitful" conversations. Quite a few people were already aware of Chicago VeganMania, planning to attend, and truly excited about it. Many more were thrilled to hear about it, and wanting to know more. More than a dozen people identified themselves as vegan, including three angelic young women who gave me a delicious vegan chocolate chip cookie. All told, it was a great evening.

Promotional season is starting to heat up even as summer is starting to cool down (not that it ever really got warm this year). Keep your eyes open, You never know where you'll see a veganmaniac next.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We're adding a room for speakers!

Our core group has just decided to add yet another dimension to our event. A lot of people have been asking for a chance to catch a lecture or workshop while they're at Chicago VeganMania, so we're going to accommodate. We've lined up three excellent speakers: Nathan Runkle, the wünderkind executive director of Mercy for Animals, Caryn Hartglass, the executive director of EarthSave International and host of the internet TV show "Going Green with Caryn Hartglass", and Dr. Michael Greger, the renowned nutrition and food safety expert and Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States.

Nathan once witnessed an act of animal cruelty that compelled him to become an advocate for animals. Even though he was barely into his teens, he founded Mercy for Animals in his native Ohio. Since then, Mercy for Animals has grown into one of the most important voices for farm animals in the country. Nathan has lead numerous undercover investigations of factory egg farms, and has masterfully overseen the creation of an innovative and hard-hitting media machine that has changed the lives of thousands of people. I remember first meeting him years ago at an animal rights conference in DC, and was immediately struck by the amazing amount of confidence, will and compassion packed into this skinny teenager. It exciting to see how far he has come. Here's a bio.

A native New Yorker, Caryn became a vegetarian at age 15, and eventually became involved in EarthSave International's New York chapter. Her relentless energy and dynamic personality lead her to the top spot at EarthSave International. In 2006, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a disease she has conquered through her healthy vegan diet and lifestyle, and a lot of help from Evanston's famed Block Cancer Center. Caryn is also a gifted singer of both operatic and popular music, and she has combined all of her talents, passion and energy to create EarthSave TV, and its signature show, "Going Green with Caryn Hartglass", a lively mix of interviews, cooking lessons, travelogues, and wisdom about living a healthy and sustainable life. Caryn has also been great source of support to us as we're putting together this event. Here's the site for EarthSave International as well as Caryn's own website.

Michael is a founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, as well as a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. He's also one of the most dynamic speakers I have ever seen. His presentations are memorable and often mindblowing events. Here's what he says about the presentation he'll be giving for us. It's called The Latest in Human Nutrition 2009:

"Dr. Greger has scoured the world's scholarly literature on clinical nutrition and developed this brand-new talk of the latest in cutting-edge research. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific nutrition journals, Dr. Greger offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse chronic disease In an engaging interactive quiz show format."

Here's his website and bio.

So now you have three more really great reasons to come to Chicago VeganMania. We'll keep posting more in the coming days and weeks.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A "Sample" of What You'll Taste at Chicago VeganMania

One of the key goals of Chicago VeganMania has been to give visitors the opportunity to savor all the wonderful vegan foods we can find in this great city. But how does one do that? After all, we'll only be there for six hours, and there's only so much food one can comfortably eat in that amount of time.

Well, after a lot of brainstorming and discussion, we feel we've arrived at a pretty good way to let you try out a lot of different foods. Here's how it works:

There will be a big room full of stands from some of Chicago's best vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, and well as companies with prepared foods made from their vegan products. Everything will be available in sample sizes, and some places (maybe even all of them) will offer larger meals as well. When you arrive (oh, did we mention that admission is free?), you will be given five tickets, each good for one of the sample-sized foods. If you decide you want to keep sampling or eating after that (and we bet you will!), you can purchase additional tickets for 50¢ each. Larger items will be available for multiple tickets.

We're building a great list of restaurants and food purveyors who will be there, and we'll share that as soon as we've nailed it down a bit better.

Besides all the great food, there will be a lot of other great vegan merchants, as well as a vegan art show, the latest in vegan fashion, an exhibit of Chicago's vegetarian history, music and live entertainment, children's activities (including a children's spectacle parade), and much, much more.

Stay tuned for updates...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Feeling the love at Veggie Fest

I'm just settling down after a big weekend in the sun at Veggie Fest in Naperville. What an event! They were predicting that as many as 20,000 people would brave the hot sun and crazy distance to Naperville, and I wouldn't be the least surprised to hear that they met that target.

We had a great booth space surrounded by friends (Vegetarian Resource Group on one side with Mercy for Animals just past them, and our old pal Bob from The Book Publishing company from The Farm on the other side), and we had a nearly steady stream of traffic all day both days.

We signed up 180 on our mailing list and handed out ten times that many postcards. It was so much fun to pitch the event! People's eyes would light up and their mouths would grow into big smiles when they heard what we're doing. People promised to go out and spread the word through their social networks, and several people mentioned they've already been picking up a lot of buzz about it in cyberspace. We also signed up a bunch of merchant and nonprofit vendors, and we nailed down a bunch of event details which I'll write out in a future post after I've gotten a bit of sleep.

Final word for now, though, is that Veggie Fest was awesome and that Chicago VeganMania will be even more awesome yet!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Meet some VeganManiacs at Veggie Fest

Veggie Fest is the biggest and perhaps the best vegan event happening in the Chicago area this summer. Even though it's not entirely vegan and it's way out in Naperville, it's definitely worth the effort to get there. Veggie Fest is spread out over a big park, and they're expecting about 20,000 people. They'll have live music, lots of fun activities, workshops, and a total of about 100 vendors, including, of course, us. We'll be there, showing off Chicago VeganMania, and giving everyone a little preview of the most exciting vegan party Chicago will have ever seen. Stop by, gwt some great food, and soak up some great veggie vibes. It's supposed to be a beautiful weekend.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chicago VeganMania Shows Its Pride!

This past Sunday, we sent a small but enthusiastically received contingent of VeganManiacs to the Chicago Pride Parade. It was a gorgeous day, a huge crowd, and a bunch of fun. We had five costumed characters including myself as a giant asparagus (it doesn't really show up in the photo, but it was more than 10 feet tall), as well as a giant cherry, a giant broccoli, a giant bunch of grapes, and young Justice as a space alien in his CVM flying saucer. Justice, in particular, was really a hit. He waved like a celebrity, spun little spaceship circles and zig-zags all over, and had his image captured on at least a thousand different cameras. Us veg-heads were a hit as well. I high-fived hundreds of asparagus loving fans and posed in dozens of pictures. I felt like a rock star. We handed out all 2,500 postcards we brought in the first four blocks, and could have easily handed out four times more. Many in the crowd were very excited to hear about the event, and everyone wanted more info. The whole parade was a big lovefest (well, for some people it was probably more of a big humpfest, but our group and most people we encountered along the way kept it pretty clean).

Big thanks to Heather and everyone at Mercy for Animals for letting us march with them.

Watch for our veg-heads as we pop up around town throughout the summer. We are also building the event right now, and we have a lot of fascinating and exciting people and groups who are signing on to be a part of it. This will truly be the biggest and coolest vegan party Chicago has ever seen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our Great and Generous Green Festival

We just showed off Chicago VeganMania in a big way from our table at the Chicago Green Festival. The multitudes that thronged Navy Pier told us loud and clear that Chicago is ready for a world-class celebration of vegan culture, commerce, community and cuisine. We handed out nearly 1,000 postcards promoting the event as well as hundreds of delicious organic vegan, gluten-free cookies that were generously provided to us by the great folks at The Balanced Kitchen. More than two hundred people signed up to get more information and more than thirty signed up to volunteer.

The best part of all, though, was the tremendous love we picked up from the people stopping by. Dozens of people identified themselves as vegans, and many more talked about their desire and path to get there. And everyone, no matter what they liked to eat, got into the concept. Many were very excited, can't-wait-what-can-we-do-to-help folks. And a lot of people told us that they felt that adopting a vegan lifestyle has been or would be the best gift they could give the planet. I wasn't at the table for the whole weekend, but while I was there, I didn't hear a single negative or derisive comment from anyone, and every volunteer I talked to said the same thing, that everyone was positive and pumped about Chicago VeganMania.

Thanks to all our great volunteers and everyone in the core group for making this happen, and a big thank you to everyone who stopped by. This kicked off our season, and we're just getting started. We'll be showing off all over Chicagoland all summer. We'll start posting our appearances at events before we get there so you can know to meet us there.

Come feel the joy that is Chicago VeganMania!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Possible Spokescritter

Meet CarmenMania. She's lively and fun, she loves everybody, she can sing and dance the samba, and she enjoys parties so much that she usually walks around with a bunch of animated fruit on her head. You may see her sashaying by at a social event this summer, and perhaps she'll lead a singalong at Chicago VeganMania in October. What do you think? Does she represent the values of Chicago VeganMania? Would she get attention? Draw a crowd? Dispel some myths about vegans being dark and angry naysayers who live only to deprive themselves of all joy and wish to inflict the same deprivation on the whole world? Please let us know what you think of her.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two chances to meet the VeganManiacs

Chicago VeganMania is beginning the season of promoting our groundbreaking autumn event by tabling at a couple of Chicago's biggest eco events of the spring.

First, drop by the Irish American Heritage Center at 4626 North Knox Avenue, on Saturday, April 18 for Chicago's Irish Earth Day. This is shaping up to be the biggest Earth Day event in Chicago, and would be a blast even if the VeganManiacs weren't there, but of course we will be. Stop by our table, get a preview of Chicago's most exciting vegan event, and meet some of the folks behind it.

Then, on the weekend of May 16-17, join us at Navy Pier for Chicago's third annual Green Festival. If you haven't been to a Green Festival, you've missed the chance to see the future of a happy green planet as envisioned by the visionaries who are making it happen. Don't miss this one. We'll be there in full Chicago VeganManiac force. Stop by and visit us in the Community Action pavilion.

We have a date and place!

Chicago VeganMania is happening, and we can now tell you where and when. The event is going to be Saturday, October 10, 2009, from 10 am to 5 pm at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse at 1419 W. Blackhawk (Halfway between North and Division and a couple blocks east of Ashland) at the edge of Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.

The Pulaski Park Fieldhouse is a gorgeous rambling Arts and Crafts building erected in 1914. It might be familiar to a lot of urban hipsters as the location for the DIY Trunk Show and the Renegade Craft Fair. We'll be occupying the main auditorium and several other large rooms.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fleshing out the event...

From John
So what is this Chicago VeganMania, anyway? The core group has already made a lot of the basic decisions, but there is still a lot that's in the air. For starters, here is what we have determined during our meetings so far:

Chicago VeganMania is a celebration of Chicago's vegan culture, commerce, community, and food. It will most likely take place either the last Saturday of September or the first Saturday of October 2009 in and around a beautiful park district building centrally located in the Wicker Park neighborhood (I don't want to say any names of anything that isn't confirmed yet. We have submitted aplications for one of those two Saturdays. It's the policy of the Chicago Park District – or at least this building – to not make decisions for booking 2009 events until after the first of the year. We're on friendly terms with the folks there, though, and they seem excited to have us).

The event will include tables from at least 50 vegan or vegan-friendly companies and nonprofits, as well as food provided for sample and sale by several local vegan restaurants. There will be a large children's area or family area with crafts and activities,and come sort of entertainment either on stage or traveling through the crowd. During the first year, anyway, the event would fill two large rooms and a long veranda of this aforementioned park district building.

It has been my charge from the core group to compile and lay out our list of new ideas to add to the above. All the ideas below have a shared focus of creating a lively experiential interactive atmosphere that really shows off all the great aspects of our community. This should be the vegan equivalent of Chinese New Year's in Chinatown or the Pride Parde in Boystown, and should be seen as welcoming, inclusive, and engaging for everyone, no matter their relation to our subculture. Keep in mind as you go through these that we will be encouraging different local and national vegan companies to directly sponsor some of these events or stations, and, in fact, a couple of companies have already expressed an interest in doing so.

Note: all of these ideas are fluid, and we welcome and ask for your comments and critiques. We also would love to hear your ideas. Please express yourself in the comment box following this post.

Here we go:

• DJs in each room laying a bed of ambient music to set the tone. Probably something lively and upbeat, but not too intrusive or dominating (this is done at at least one of the big crafter's fairs held in that very space, and it really adds a nice touch).

• Wandering performers, such as jugglers, improv groups, performance artists, magicians, hula hoopers, or whatever interesting folks we can find.

Related to above: We create a series of "VegHeads", people wearing large whole head vegetable or fruit masks (somewhat related to the critter at the top of the right column of this page), which we would build beforehand out of foam rubber and cloth and other materials. They would be our costumed ambassadors (sort of like Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland), and would wander through the crowd spreading goodwill and cheer. There could also be a tofu character and a seitan character who would argue with each other about who is the better protein).

(A side note about the VegHeads: They could be our ambassadors and icons at events leading up to CVM as well, and could perhaps march in parades, ride in Critical Mass, or wander through street festivals)

• A photo booth where visitors could have their picture taken, possibly against an appropriately unusual background, in one of a number of provided costumes, with a craft project (more on that later), or in some other creatively fun way. We could have a digital printer nearby where one could get (probably purchase for a nominal fee) a commerative print of the day.

A variation or possibly addition to above would be to have a video booth where people could leave a message, tell a story, sing a song, do a dance, or whatever.

• We could have someone edit these photos and/or videos and display them on one or more Jumbotron-like screens at places in the venue. Or to go one step further, we could have wandering photographers and/or videographers working through the crowd and sending their images/footage to the aforementioned editors to display on the screens as well. We could even have them focus attention on each of our exhibitors, so that everyone with a booth gets a shout out from the big screen to help draw more people their way. This could be an extra incentive to get people to exhibit.

• A central bookstore/media store where people can purchase all the best and latest vegan related books and videos, and perhaps also CVM-related paraphrenalia like posters, t-shirts, tote bags, and the like.

• Out in the park surrounding the building, we could host some sort of group games, like kickball or something interesting or unique, or else have some sort off offbeat athletic contests (the Extreme Vegan Olympics?) complete with trophies, medals or other awards.

• A gallery display featuring the history of vegetarianism/veganism and/or famous veg*ns and their achievements.

• Music or other entertainment on the mainstage (in this particular park district building, there is a beautiful stage at the far end of the largest room). The general consensus has been that since this will probably be the main room for vendors and restaurants, that having a series of acts throughout the day might lead to too much cognitive dissonance, but that perhaps it might be nice to have one concert or other performance later in the afternoon after sales have stopped and vendors are breaking down their booths (we're supposed to wrap up by 4:00 under our current plan, though we could, at a cost, extend that.

The Family Area
It seems that there should be a specific place for most of the interactive games and projects (the ones I haven't mentioned yet), and that this should be the children's or family area. It would be great to come up with a clever name for this space that is inviting to both children and adults without children, because the space should include fun things for everyone. Here are some possible ideas for the space:

• A children's entertainment stage.

• Painting a community mural. Variations on this could be painting a community globe or globes (like the Cool Globes Project) or a life-sized cow statue (a la Cows On Parade), or (and this is lifted from a clever idea my son had when he was four) a giant Tofu Turkey - a series of large boxes covered with blank newsprint or off-white primer, and assembled into the shape of a turkey (it's more than six weeks until Thanksgiving, but it might drive a point home, and could encourage a tofu turkey company to sponsor). Another variation is to have a painting table where we encourage people to create paintings on a particular theme (like compassion or animals), and hang them all on a clothesline gallery with clothespins.

• The Evanston Arts Fair has a wonderful group project that I wouldn't mind ripping off or creating some variation of it: They gather a huge pile of sticks from fallen trees, and then laden a huge table with bits of cloth, yarn, string, colored paper, and other interesting objects, and invite visitors use all this to build teepees or other simple structures. Last year it evolved into this fascinating sprawling city that was built by dozens of people, some working together, some independently, over the course of the weekend. It was so much fun and really addictive.

• Animal mask making: We could have a pile of crafting supplies and a series of templates that children could use to create their own animal masks which they could take home with them.

• Musical instrument making: This is something I've always wanted to do. We get a bunch of people to save their toilet paper/wrapping paper/paper towel tubes, and we use them to build musical instruments – either shakers (fill partially with dried beans, seal off each end with wax paper and rubber bands) – or attached to the end of a kazoo and then built into horn shapes. We could also get flexible tubing and make templates for people to build paper cones for the ends of their horns. We could also get materials to build drums, harps, and other instruments.

Dance instruction: Maybe you're starting to catch a pattern here. We have our kids and other friends in their animal masks with their musical instruments. Now we can teach them a song or three that could be played and sung together, and then choreographed into a simple dance routine.

• Leading to: The procession. The children, perhaps led by the Veg Heads, the choreographer/dance instructor, and whatever other colorful characters care to join in could have a procession through the building and around the grounds (if it's nice out). We would probably want to have the processions at specific times, say 12:30 and 3:00 and advertise them well in advance.

• Or even bigger yet: This might be more than we want to bite off, but it could be awesomely cool. Since we A) have all these dressed up kids, critters, and what-have-you, and B) have an event that, as things stand now, wraps up at 4pm, why not have a parade? Of course, the weather could be a factor, but late September-early October is often gorgeous. Last year, the first Veggie Pride parade in New York City was a huge hit, and the promoter of it is really encouraging us to have one in Chicago next year.

If we have a parade, it would be relatively short, just around the neighborhood (perhaps ending at a popular nearby vegan restaurant, which I won't mention the name since we haven't talked to them yet, but if you know the neighborhood you might be able to figure it out). We would have to secure permits and probably face some other hurdles, but I think it would get lots of press and the sponsors would love it.

Also, if it turns out we do have a parade, perhaps one of the interactive events we stage earlier in the day could be to build a float for it. Or we may modify a lot of the activities into preparing for the parade.

Okay, this is a lot of things to consider, some of which are likely more appealing than others, but the purpose here is to start planning an event. Hopefully, this will help a bunch of creative vegans come up with bigger and more audacious ideas. PLEASE COMMENT, CRITIQUE, AND SUGGEST YOUR OWN IDEAS! Read the other comments and comment on them. This is an event for all of us. Let's make it spectacular.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Inside the Mind of Chicago VeganMania

Chicago VeganMania
a celebration of vegan commerce, culture, and community
Coming to Chicago in October 2009

1st post - John
This blog is a place where ideas can be shared among the visionaries who are coming together to create an all-new vegan experience in Chicago. The idea behind the blog is to have a forum and a place where we can suggest ideas, share information, give each other feedback, and ultimately create a wonderful event about ten and a half months from now. How will this blog it work? I don't know. It depends on all of us who share it. This is all pretty new, and I don't completely have a handle on the whole process yet. That's a good thing really. I come up with ideas for a living, and I always have a more successful time of it when I'm not too constrained by definition. To quote the great philosopher, Shunryu Suzuki, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities... in the expert's mind there are few".

Still, it's best to have some bit of structure and definition. So here are a couple of obvious questions, followed by whatever answers I have right now. Of course, I'm just one guy in a group, and everyone in the group is welcome and encouraged to share her or his opinion about this.

What is VeganMania?
VeganMania is an event that is in the process of being designed and created by members of EarthSave Chicago and other like-minded souls. We currently have a core group of about ten people or so. I'm not sure how many. It's in flux and mostly growing. I'm pretty sure people have joined since the last time we met, so I don't have a firm number. We also don't have firm leadership right now, which may become a problem down the road, but for now is mostly just an annoyance. Would you like to lead us? It gives you a good sense of power and accomplishment, but it's a lot of work.

Some of us have been talking about VeganMania since last winter. Basically the idea grew from a series of conferences we (EarthSave Chicago) have put on over the last several years called The Conference for Conscious Living. The conferences were held at different university campuses around town, and brought together some of the leading thinkers and activists in vegan thought. We always included a vegan marketplace called the Conscious Living Fair where attendees could buy products, learn more about local groups, and generally support and build the vegan community. These events were generally pretty successful. Most attendees left feeling very inspired and motivated, and some of them went on to do great things. Still, the attendance was never more than a few hundred people, and most of them were already with the program. We wanted to find a way to reach a larger audience.

We decided it was time for what we began to dub a "third wave action" (for a definition of third wave action, scroll down). We wanted to create an event that is designed to show off and celebrate Chicago's vibrant vegan community in a lively, fun, and completely non-threatening way (It's time for us to admit that a lot of people find vegans threatening, mostly in the same way that most of us find anyone who strongly believes anything outside of the mainstream threatening. It's not that people are worried about being converted. They're mostly worried about being annoyed).

We decided to start with the part of our Conference that we felt would be the most accessible – the marketplace. We'll have at least a couple of restaurants, several shops selling vegan products and other healthy, eco-friendly and/or life enhancing things, as well as a bunch of nonprofit groups, and anyone else who seems to fit in and is willing to pay a small fee for a table.

Beyond that, it's wide open. Some of the things we're discussing are entertainers, bands, a kid's area, perhaps a parade -- plus a lot of other things. We'll post a list soon, but the point is that it could be any number of things, and will be guided and led into existence by the very minds of the people who come together to make it happen, and that, of course, includes you, the person reading this blog. You probably have something you'd like to see happen here. Our experience has been that when we encourage someone to follow a good idea through, that person is often surprisingly effective. So let's all encourage other to think big.

So that leads to the second question:

What is the point of this blog?
As I wrote earlier, this could be the place where we share, dissect, and build all the various components that will become VeganMania.

If you're a part of the Vegan Mania core group, you'll be given the password so you have access to this blog, and you can post whatever you want to post.
The hope is that this will become a kind of a shared sketchbook and planner, and that as time goes along, will become a kind of an interesting thing to read. It also could become a vehicle to attract more people to the process, as well as a teaching tool for showing people how to create a community building event. It's also a great transparent record of everything this went into the process.

Will it work? I don't know. I guess it's up to all of us including me. This is only one way this group is sharing information. We already have an active listserve and we've been holding (somewhat) regular meetings. The success of this blog is based on what we put into it and what we feel we get out of it. It may be an amazing and world changing record of an incredible leap of consciousness by a remarkable group of people or we may all decide that it's a lousy idea and it will be gone and forgotten within a month.

Tomorrow (actually, today I guess by this point) is November 19 and we'll all be meeting tonight at The Balanced Kitchen. At that point, I'll explain to everyone there how they can contribute to this blog.

Okay, lastly, What's all this about third wave action?
There probably is some much more sophisticated and accurate measurement of this sort of thing, but this is something we were kicking around, and it makes a lot of sense to me. In any social movement, there seems to be at least four phases of action:

First wave - Confrontation
Second wave - Education
Third wave - Celebration
Fourth wave - Integration
There may be levels beyond that, but I haven't thought that far.

Level 1 is best characterized by a protest, an angry missive or something like that. For vegans, think back to early PETA protests and anti-fur demonstrations. Of course, a lot of this is still going on, but we're a pretty young movement. Level 2 is when people started publishing vegan cookbooks, list of cruelty free products, academic works and scholarly works like those collected in the sadly now defunct magazine, Satya. The Conference for Conscious Living is a great example of second wave action. Third wave actions are kind of new. I would call VegNews magazine third wave. This summer's Vegan Pride Parade in New York was definitely third wave. Marla and I started a company about ten years ago called Vegan Street that was attempting some third wave stuff back then. Chicago VeganMania could be the definitive third wave event.

Most movements have different people working or living at different levels, though there probably is one place that represents the bulk of progress. I'd say that for the most part the vegan movement has progressed to somewhere in the early stages of the second wave. That kind of make us pioneers.

So I invite you to become a part of this blog. Whatever happens with it, just like whatever happens with VeganMania, is up to us.