An estimated 3,500 people attended last year’s Bluegrass VegFest. At right, Kristina Addington serves customers from her V-Grits food truck. | Courtesy of Bluegrass VegFest

Kristina Addington recalls the last time she ate meat, nearly a dozen years ago. It was a meal from KFC.

And then she happened upon some information about commercial food production, and her life changed.

“It was just shocking the first time I learned where food comes from and what the animals go through,” she says.

She’s been a vegan ever since, not falling off the wagon once since her “last supper.” Addington doesn’t take animal welfare lightly, and she also believes a plant-based diet is essential to general wellness.

This is why she and partner Jeff Hennis created Bluegrass VegFest, which in its first year in 2016 drew such a turnout that this year’s follow-up, which takes place Saturday, was moved to a bigger venue.

After creating V-Grits, the popular food truck, and then the V-Box, which provides delivery of vegan meals with recipes and instructions for home preparation, VegFest was, of course, a natural step. Other cities around America already had similar festivals, and the duo felt Louisville was ready.

They were right.

“It’s definitely becoming more popular, the idea of eating vegan,” says Addington.

Last year’s event at Apocalypse Brew Works was packed, almost standing room only at times, attracting an estimated 3,500 people. The Tim Faulkner Gallery will offer increased space to facilitate a larger crowd and more vendors and other attractions.

In fact, the number of vendors has more than doubled for 2017. Meanwhile, DJ Sam Sneed will spin music, CirqueLouis will perform, and Magnolia Photo Booth will bring its photo van. A full bar will be available.

Mark and Michelle Pruit, of Uplands PEAK Sanctuary in Salem, Ind., will do a presentation following grand marshal Dawne Gee’s introduction. Other speakers include Bob Hobbs, founder of Louisville Lifestyle Medicine, who will speak on how a healthful diet is the best medicine. Local business LOVAFARE will do a cooking demonstration. In addition, at 4 p.m. a film titled “What The Health,” about preventing and reversing chronic disease, and how big business influences our nations health, will be shown. The screening is free.

The goal, of course, is to bring together vegans, but Addington sees it as much more — she says a number of people attended last year’s Bluegrass VegFest because they are curious about the nutritional aspects of a plant-based diet. For those people, VegFest is educational. That’s why there are speakers this year, a trend that should continue.

“Last year, we thought, ‘Let’s have a party and invite some vendors and see if people show up,’” Addington says, adding “definitely more than half” of attendees were those interested in, but not living, a vegan lifestyle.

VegFest 2017 will include more than twice as many as in 2016. | Courtesy of Bluegrass VegFest

Education plays a big role this year, because more and more education, like the information that convinced Addington to stop eating animal-based food, is available thanks to social media and the vastness of the internet.

“We have so many people who are interested in being vegan because of all the documentaries coming out” about animal welfare and the nutritional value of a plant-based diet.

Hennis became a vegan about three years ago while training for a marathon. Addington encouraged him and also prepared plenty of vegan meals for him, and he was hooked.

“All the food was delicious,” he recalls, “and I ran 26 miles on plant protein.”

There will be plenty of that available at VegFest 2017. Among the food vendors are V-Grits food truck, Morels Cafe, LOVAFARE, Half Peach Cafe and Highland Coffee, with vegan chefs also coming from Lexington. Other exhibitors include yoga studios and gyms, cruelty-free cosmetics and tattoo studios.

The second annual Bluegrass VegFest runs from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Tim Faulkner Gallery, 1512 Portland Ave. Admission is again free, although a donation of at least $5 at the gate is encouraged.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]