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.