Every year, for over 3 decades the beginning of September in Toronto is marked by the Vegetarian Food Festival. This year, the 25th Annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival took place on September 11 to 13, 2009. This amazing event features free admission and takes place in one of the most beautiful areas in Toronto – the Harbourfront Centre. It brings huge crowds from across the province and country each year! It is North America’s largest annual vegetarian festival.

The festival has something for everyone, including great vegetarian food, live demos, talks from famous “veggies”, over 100 different exhibitors and much more! This was my first time to attend, as I missed it last year and I have to tell you, I attended one full day of the fair, but intend to make this the 3-day event that it is, next year! It was such an awesome experience and in this post I want to share a few highlights from it with you.

Annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival

The Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair is presented each year by the Toronto Vegetarian Association. This is an amazing and highly proactive association, which I am proud to say I had a chance to volunteer for once and intend to do so again. They are extremely supportive, as they inspire people to choose a healthier, greener and more peaceful way of life.

The food fair kicked off on Friday September 11th at 4pm, with opening ceremonies at 6pm. This evening had a special treat with talks from professional triathelete and vegan champion – Brendan Brazier and fitness expert Aaron Richards.

Saturday’s features included presentations from humorist, Ben Shaberman; author of Compassionate Cooking, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau; registered dietitian and vegan nutrition expert, Brenda Davis; Brendan Brazier again, and a few others.

Sunday’s features included presentations from author of The Dog By the Cradle, Erika Ritter; Caroline Trapp, Gene Baur, and Brenda Davis.

Amongst this as I mentioned, there were numerous cooking demos and over 100 vegetarian, vegan and raw foods exhibitors! Some of these included Sequel Naturals, Vita-Mix, Salba, ShaSha Co. Organic Bakery, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, Cocoa Camino, Sunflower Kitchen, Casabi Organics and so many more!

And of course, who could forget about the great food! There were various vendors who provided a selection of delectable meals that suited vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists alike!

Personal Commentary

Wow, what an event! I have to tell you, the only thing I regret is that I could not have been there all three days. It was so much fun!

I was definitely not expecting the amazing variety of products and support services available for all vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists.

There was an amazing emphasis of course on the environment and how such diets work to help the environment, as well as an emphasis on compassion for animals and peace-filled lives. I was even introduced to a local, vegetarian food bank!

What really touched my heart as I was there and later reflected on this event, was if I ever had a doubt that the world is changing toward a more loving, compassionate and conscious way of living, this event really proved that. The thousands of people who attended this event are seeking a different way, and this really showed. The smiles were abundant, the energy in the air was so positive and the variety of people of all ages and races enjoying themselves was very moving.

Another really awesome point of the festival was how well it catered to vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists and even people who seek gluten-free options. And while there was of course some “processed” veggie food showcased, generally speaking the products and the quality of exhibitors were exceptional I found. The focus wasn’t solely on “vegetarian”, but on “natural” as well.

To finish off I want to share with you 2 fascinating things:

First off, I was shocked, and I mean shocked – well perhaps more pleasantly surprised, how a vegetarian, vegan and raw way of life can include every delicacy you can imagine. I lead a rather simple and natural kitchen, and never looked for plant-based substitutions of animal based products, but boy are they there to suit everyone’s needs and tastes. There were vegan “meats”, vegan desserts like you wouldn’t believe, out of this world raw food options and more. So much so, that if I was just an average person walking by (and didn’t read any signs), I would really think this is just another food fair. What I am trying to say, is that if anyone was there to “experiment” with this way of life, it definitely proved that you will be missing nothing! In fact your diet and way of life will be enhanced in the most diverse and delicious of ways!

Secondly, I walked away with an abundant selection of goodies. I was not expecting to make all these purchases, but they were too alluring. Some things which I never heard of before like raw, organic kale chips (yes, I know, I know, where have I been…) and others which I was desperately looking for like pure, raw, organic cocoa nibs (crushed cocoa beans).

I also had a chance to try some new delicacies like hemp milk and rice milk (yes I have never tried these before); hemp seed butter; gluten-free, vegan, chocolate-amaranth bars; and raw, vegetable crackers, just to name a few.

In conclusion, it was an outstanding event and of course I wish every major city had something like this. However, if this sounds like something you are interested in, do a little search for similar events in your area – you may be surprised what you find. I know I didn’t know about this event until about a year ago.