Bluegrass VegFest founder and V-Grits co-owner Kristina J. Addington | Courtesy of V-Grits
Bluegrass VegFest founder and V-Grits co-owner Kristina J. Addington | Courtesy of V-Grits

In a meat-centric world, the idea of giving up meat — let alone dairy — can be daunting, even to someone interested in the ideas and ideals behind veganism.

But Louisville’s ever-growing food culture is offering more and more vegan choices, and many of them will be on display this Saturday, May 28, at Bluegrass VegFest, a daylong celebration of vegan food held at Apocalypse Brew Works.

Insider spoke with VegFest organizer Kristina J. Addington, co-owner of V-Grits food truck, as well as Isabelle Forbes, owner of Flora Vegan Treats, one of the event’s guests.

“When we started the food truck, I knew we wanted to do something bigger, but at the beginning I wasn’t sure what that was,” said Addington.

That “something bigger” has grown to include VegFest and a box meal service V-Grits operated over the winter, similar to Blue Apron. Both were responses to conversations Addington had with customers.

“We have so many people tell us they don’t know where to go out to eat, they don’t know how to find really good healthy food,” she said.

Once V-Grits decided they wanted to help host a festival, they began reaching out to the community. “We’ve always tried to be really active in the health and vegan organizations in Louisville, so we have a lot of contacts already,” said Addington.

One of those contacts was Forbes, owner of Flora Vegan Treats, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar location on Barret Avenue called Flora’s Kitchenette. Forbes met Addington the way many people do.

“Just walking up, getting a sandwich one day at the truck,” said Forbes. “Probably the v-burger, because thats pretty much what I get every time at the food truck.”

Isabelle Forbes of Flora Vegan Treats | Courtesy of Flora Vegan Treats
Isabelle Forbes of Flora Vegan Treats | Courtesy of Flora Vegan Treats

Longtime readers may remember my own attempts to find a great vegan burger, and let me tell you, V-Grits’ version is pretty great.

Forbes, a vegan for a little over two years, has worked most of her professional life in coffee and said her goal has always been to open her own café. “I’ve been a barista, so I didn’t have much funds available, so I decided to start small.”

Starting small included treats and pastries, which Forbes was able to place in several area coffee shops, relying on the connections she had made in the coffee scene. The baking has grown to employ Forbes and two other full-time employees.

Much of her business has been at festivals and fairs, so she will be in her element at VegFest, though she admitted she’s a little unsure of how much food to prep.

“I’ve done farmers markets and I’ve done the Flea Off — we’ve done fairly well, but this is an event that’s all vegan,” she said. Will she have more takers because of more vegans, or fewer because those vegans have more options? Regardless, she’ll be on hand with her tarts and donuts, and they are quite tasty (my favorite is the blueberry tart).

Food won’t be the only thing available on Saturday. Several vendors and guests follow vegan ideals in their non-food businesses. BAREfit Adventure Training will be there advocating a holistic health and fitness program that includes a vegetable-based diet; Summer Shade Soap Company will offer cruelty-free ways to keep clean; and Tattoo Charlie’s will be on hand to educate about cruelty-free tattoos.

VegFestWhile Addington frequently focuses on the health benefits of veganism in conversation, she doesn’t shy away from espousing her beliefs about the way we ought to treat animals.

“Personally, I chose to switch to a vegan lifestyle because of the animal rights aspects — once I learned about factory farming and the food industry and where our food is coming form,” she explained. And these beliefs are reflected in the choice to include two animal rescue organizations in the festival: Uplands PEAK Sanctuary and Saving Sunny. “We’re actually having Uplands PEAK — they rescue farmed animals and educate people on how pigs and cows and chickens are really just the same as our dogs and cats.”

The hopes for the event are twofold. “This event, it’s gonna be so much fun for people who are already vegan to have all the places they love together at one spot,” said Addington. “But the goal is to show other people who live in Louisville that we have a lot of options.”

So the vegans do have an agenda, and that’s for you to have a tasty fun Saturday.

The fun runs from 2-7 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, at Apocalypse Brew Works, 1612 Mellwood Ave.

The full list of food and vendors includes Half Peach Bakery & Cafe, Kentucky Kombucha, V-Grits Food Truck, Flora Vegan Treats, SnoWhat Snoballs, Weekly Juicery, Farm to Baby, Tattoo Charlie’s, Barkstown Road, Saving Sunny, Uplands PEAK Sanctuary, BAREfit Adventure Training, Louisville Vegetarian Initiative, Summer Shade Soap Company, and Kristin Lajeunesse with Will Travel For Vegan Food.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.