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 w√ľnderkind 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.