Plenty of vegan food was available at Depot Park from vendors who came from across Florida. Local and national animal organizations had booths as well, and people sold homemade soap and other wares.
Jordyn Terry was a pescatarian, forgoing food from animals except for fish.
That lasted a few days. The downfall for the 11-year-old Gainesville girl?
“That I can’t have Chick-fil-A,” she said. “I like chicken.”
But Jordyn was among the throng of vegans, vegetarians and — yes, there were a few — omnivores at the Gainesville VegFest at Depot Park Saturday.
Plenty of vegan food was available from vendors who came from across Florida. Local animal rescue groups and national animal advocacy organizations had booths. People were selling their homemade soap and other wares. Visitors could stretch in a yoga class.
It was all part of an effort to encourage healthier living for people and for animals.
“They had to fit with our mission, which is to be a healthy, sustainable and compassionate way of living,” said VegFest director Dehlia Albrecht. “Everything (food vendors) sold today had to be vegan, even if they are not always vegan. We include a lot of animal rescues because we are passionate about that as a group.”
This is the first year VegFest was held at Depot Park — the city of Gainesville was a sponsor — and Albrecht said she was pleased with the size of the crowd. She added about 120 vendors were at the event.
Noo Cow of Orlando came mostly to sell its vegan gelato. Noo Cow also has Jamaican patties — a staple of which is meat. But not Saturday.
“Today they are all vegan,” said Bridget McCausland, who runs the business with her husband, Michael. “When we go to farmers markets in Orlando, the customers are usually half meat and half vegetarian. Now, everyone is changing their diet to foods that are more healthy. More people are staying away from meat.”
Also selling Jamaican food was Dajen Eats, an Orlando business owned by Jenn Ross. She has a cafe and dairy-free ice cream shop, caters and teaches cooking her Irie Vegan Culinary Academy.
Jamaican cuisine is renowned for jerk chicken, curried goat, stewed oxtail and other meaty dishes. But Ross said Rastafarians often practice veganism.
“It’s referred to ital living, which is almost always plant-based. So it’s not uncommon — it’s just not referred to as vegan,” Ross said.
University of Florida student Joanna Deng said she never liked meat.
Deng said her mom used to put some meat on her plate and not let her leave the table until she ate it, so she would wrap it in other food to get it down. Deng also recalled being sent to time-out as a 3-year-old at the home of a relative because she refused to eat meat.
“I knew I was going to go vegan for a while, and when I came to college I was able to,” Deng said. “There is always difficulty in transitioning because you have to do a lot of research into being vegan. There are a lot of things that you wouldn’t think have animal fat in them, but that do. So there is a transition, but I think mine was easier.”
As for Jordyn, she is considering trying again.
“I may give it another shot,” she said. “If I make it, that would be good.”