By Helen Hood
Special to the Gazette
The sign on the door read “No Food in Gym,” but no one paid any attention. The rules were temporarily suspended at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center Oct. 29-30 for the plant-based extravaganza that is the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.
Now in its 16th year, the festival brings together vegetarian businesses and non-profits from across the country for a two-day celebration of vegetarian culture and cuisine. Organized by the Boston Vegetarian Society and staffed exclusively by volunteers, it is the largest event of its kind in the country, with 120 exhibitors this year.
Organizer Evelyn Kimber estimated that 20,000 to 25,000 people flock to Roxbury Crossing each year to check out the festival. “It reminds me of the Macy’s Day parade I went to last year,” said Elli Edelstein, a New York state resident and two-year vegan on her first visit to Boston.
In the gym, tables of decadent desserts were flanked by hipster vegan-themed T-shirts and posters advocating animal rights. Upstairs, speakers lectured on nutrition, the environment and how to eat vegan on the cheap. Near the entrance, Steve Meyerowitz of Great Barrington (aka “The Sproutman”) proclaimed the benefits of “kitchen gardening, the ultimate local agriculture.”
The crowds became too much for Caitlyn Robinson, 28, and 17-month old Nico of Brockton. They retreated to the hallway for a lunch break. Robinson, a self-described meat lover, was there to support cousin Stacy Alpert, 27, a newly minted vegetarian.
“It’s nice being around other vegetarians,” said Alpert, especially when “your family thinks you’re a pain… ‘What do you mean, you can’t have that lasagna?’”