York's Harvest VegFest blossoms in second year

Harvest VegFest York — an annual vegan festival highlighting local vendors — kicked off its second year Saturday with more than 100 people in line before the  11 a.m. opening.

Event director Adrienne Williams, from nonprofit Animal Advocates, said she is amazed at the growth and turnout this year.

"It's gotten a lot bigger," she said.

She estimated this year's crowd would reach numbers between 5,000 and 7,000 — compared with last year's promising start of 3,000.

The festival, held in Manchester Township's Cousler Park on Saturday, Sept. 21, expanded considerably this year, with 20 more vendors, additional entertainment and a more close-knit setup, allowing better accessibility to vendors.

More:York's first ever Harvest VegFest highlights a growing vegan community

Festivalgoers could find things such as caricatures, vegan clothing, jewelry and products, a raffle to win a giant stuffed chicken named Chris Hensworth, personalized succulents, music, pie-eating contests and cooking demos.

Bailie DeMaria, 8, of Hempfield in Lancaster County, wins third place in the children's vegan pumpkin pie eating contest during Harvest Vegfest at Cousler Park in Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. DeMaria was visiting her grandparents who live in Manchester Township. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At the Pig Placement Network, customers could purchase  "original pigassos" — art made by pigs with their snouts — and meet Pig Pig, a rescue from Lebanon County. 

The nonprofit, no-kill charity has anywhere from 150 to 200 potbelly pigs at a time, said volunteer Belinda Kemper, and also educates families who are caring for pigs and steps in to help when needed.

Food vendors offered fare such as faux lox bagel sandwiches, quinoa bowls and apple cider donuts from Harvest Moon Bagel Co., as well as burritos, taquitos and tamales from The Mexi-Boys.

Harvest Vegfest at Cousler Park in Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Of the nearly 100 vendors, 75% were local, and that’s important, Williams said, because it’s not just a vegan fest, it’s a community event.

“York has a very tight-knit vegan community," she said.

It all started after Southcentral PA Vegan Drinks put on Vegan Restaurant Week, she said. Generating interest in the  community, groups began gathering monthly to try vegan food in York, Lancaster and Harrisburg.

The Harvest VegFest kicked off  ScPA's Vegan Restaurant Week in York this year.  More than a dozen York-are establishments are offering vegan specials through Saturday, Sept. 28.

The group would also attend vegan festivals — which are held in multiple locations internationally — and Williams thought, "why not York?”

More:Going vegan: The new year fad

New this year at Harvest VegFest were a children's scavenger hunt, panel discussions with vegan teens and animal sanctuary founders and a collaborative art piece.

Both panels offer interesting perspectives — teens because they are a much smaller group in the community, and sanctuary founders because they spend a lot of time getting to know the animals they rescue, Williams said.

Owner Jade Garcia, right, and Anya Sharif, both of Unified Earth Vision, a nonprofit based in Freeland, Md., sort through waste during Harvest Vegfest at Cousler Park in Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"Once people understand that animals are individuals — like your cat or dog at home," and have their own personalities, they might feel differently about nontraditional pets such as chickens, pigs or cows, she said.

This way of thinking highlights why some choose to become vegetarian or vegan.

"From a place of privilege, there's so little that we're doing and so much more we could be doing," said Autumn Wilhide, of Conewago Township.

After going to Brazil two years ago and spending time in the favelas, the shantytowns and slums on the outskirts of cities, she saw how locals cared for the environment and community gardens and was inspired to become a vegetarian.

York College junior Gianfranco Celario Sedano, 21, was one of four local artists who contributed to the festival's art piece — a 4-foot-by-8-foot block of plywood, each of its  sides different. 

Artist Gianfranco Celario Sedano during Harvest Vegfest at Cousler Park in Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He worked with professor Matthew Clay Robson on his panel, a re-creation of an image by Sue Coe, depicting nonviolence through veganism.

"It was amazing that (Robson) asked me to do it," Sedano said, adding that he appreciated its message of awareness, which aligns with his aim to expand consciousness through visual art.

Harvest VegFest also had a variety of resources available to help those interested in becoming vegan.

Brandi & the Bottomshelf performs during Harvest Vegfest at Cousler Park in Manchester Township, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"I am a vegetarian transitioning to vegan right now," said Abby Leonard, of Jackson Township, who said she hoped to try some samples and learn more about the lifestyle.

Philip Peffer, who is considering becoming a vegetarian, and Stephanie Royer, of West Manchester Township, were both back at the festival for its second year.

"I just like all kinds of foods," Peffer said.