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

Then, today, AFreshSqueeze.com 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.