I just got home from attending Vegetarian Summerfest. I know, I know, NERD ALERT! Guilty as charged.
Vegetarian Summerfest is a 5 day national conference put on by the wonderful people of the North American Vegetarian Society. For 38 years, these folks have been pulling together a community of like-minded people, inundating them with how-to information, cooking demonstrations, scientific statistics, and emotional support. They’ve been reminding vegetarians and vegans in attendance of a very important message – we are NOT alone. We are changing lives, and one day we will help create the best world any of us have ever known.
I’m lucky because the Johnstown, PA event is practically in my backyard, but you’d be wrong if you thought most of the people were locals. I met people from PA, NY, OH, KY, MD, DC, VA, and WA. Oh, and also from Hawaii, Canada, Peru, and Sweden. And I was only there for 48 hours.
Hearing this message from some of the world’s most renowned experts all in a single place in a single week is quite an experience. All of it was fantastic, every wonderful piece of it! Here are just some of the highlights:
- Walking into an all-you-can-eat cafeteria that was all vegan, lots of raw vegan, with accommodations for gluten-free and oil-free vegans.
- Looking around a room full of 700 people that eat, live, and act much like I do.
- Listening to an impressive list of experts on nutrition, exercise, preventing heart disease, maximizing and preserving brain function, preventing cancer, and so much more.
- Listening to some unbelievably powerful speakers sharing messages of compassion – not only toward the animals but toward each other.
- Being reminded that we must have great patience with those who are finding their way in this new foreign world, for each of us took many many years and usually decades to arrive where we are.
- Learning to embrace the label ‘vegan’ and be proud of it!
- Hearing stories of amazing transformation, overcoming obstacles, often overcoming the impossible.
In the days and weeks to come, I’m looking forward to sharing some of my most exciting revelations, statistics, tips, and suggestions. I’ll be adding to the suggested reading list and the list of resources.
One of my favorite moments was listening to a story, and taking great comfort in the fact that every single person in the room likely had the exact same reaction to it.
One of the speakers told us that about 2 years prior, her husband lost his teenage son to a freak illness. Grieving through the loss of a child left them empty and stunned. After some time, they decided to take a trip to the country to get away for awhile. They guessed that visiting a farm sanctuary might bring them some peace or at least a break from their struggle. In approaching the pasture full of cows, they noticed that many were already mingling with the other visitors. One steer was far off in the corner, grazing all by himself. He looked up when he saw the couple enter the pasture. He walked slowly, peacefully, despite his massive size, directly and intentionally straight over to the man. He rested his giant head on his shoulder. While the man cried for the loss of his son, the steer remained with his head resting gently on his shoulder. Whatever was exchanged between them was powerful. They both had experienced great suffering and great love. The steer stood there patiently and still until the man took a deep breath and lifted his head. The steer nuzzled his cheek a few times, turned slowly, and walked back to the other side of the field all by himself.
Hearing first-hand experiences of animal-love was one powerfully moving reason that I’m glad I attended Summerfest. There are many more exciting reasons and stories to come!