Fresh vegetables and fruits are sold by Bechdolt Orchards. VegFest is a vegan festival that celebrates plant-based lifestyles. (Han Jiang/BW Staff)

VegFest plants its roots in the Lehigh Valley


Gene Baur said going vegan is one of the best decisions he’s ever made — and he said many people share the same opinion.

Baur is the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an organization that rescues and homes animals from the animal agricultural system. He said he wanted to raise awareness about animal agriculture abuses and encourage people to contemplate their food choices.

He will be taking his passion for veganism to speak at an event dedicated to all things veggies, known as VegFest Upper Macungie. 

This completely vegan festival celebrating plant-based lifestyles is coming to the Lehigh Valley on Sept. 9, including food and skincare vendors, live music, speakers, and vegan cooking demonstrations. 

The event is the first VegFest produced by ArtsQuest in partnership with local advocacy group Animal Defenders Greater Lehigh Valley, which aims to run an entirely animal-product-free event.

Ryan Hill, senior director of programming for ArtsQuest, said he wants to take this VegFest to a new level, making it unlike any other vegan festival the Lehigh Valley has seen. 

“(Animal Defenders Lehigh Valley’s) activism is really centered on the animal experience…and we are obviously making sure that the human experience is also something that is heightened for this particular event,” Hill said.

Working closely with Hill on the production of VegFest was Sheryl Petrillo, president of Animal Defenders Greater Lehigh Valley.

Petrillo said some vegan festivals allow vegetarian products that include cheese or dairy, making them non-vegan. But, she said VegFest Upper Macungie strives to put on a 100% vegan event.

“I wanted to make sure we produced an event that was completely vegan, that both vegans and people who were curious about plant-based lifestyles would be able to access easily,” Petrillo said.

She said she went vegan for animal rights first and foremost but also to benefit her health and the planet.

In addition to animal advocacy, Stewart Mitchell, an activist behind the popular Instagram account @vigilante_vegan, will be speaking on a panel at VegFest about the benefits that vegan lifestyles may have for the planet. 

Mitchell said the resources necessary to raise livestock in the animal agricultural system are a major cause of food and water waste as well as air pollution.

 “A lot of people don’t know that factory farming and cattle ranching is one of the biggest causes of climate change in the world,” Mitchell said. 

Baur said he hopes to educate those at VegFest about aspects of the food industry they may not be aware of and to inspire them to make alternative consumption choices. 

“I hope that a number of people at the VegFest consider eating less animal products or being more conscious,” Baur said.

Tickets for VegFest are available for purchase now on ArtsQuest’s website


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