Dreaming of a beef-free Long Beach, organizers are delighted to see long lines, healthy smiles at Vegan Festival
By Miranda Andrade, Contributing writer
A hot, humid Saturday saw hundreds of hearty vegans and curious foodies milling outside of Cal State Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid, meatless buffalo wings and sunbrellas in hand, for the Long Beach Vegan Festival.
The celebration boasted several animal-free food and drink trucks, creating long lines for the many guests hoping to enjoy such fare as vegan pupusas and house-made meatless pizza.
Sahar Belle, an attendee from Canyon Hills, said she’d been vegan for a year and was surprised by the large turnout – and the temperatures, which seemed as hot as a Boca Burger on the grill.
“I wish I had a hat with one of those little umbrellas on it,” Belle said. “I don’t do well in this heat.”
Though not as hot as Friday’s record-shattering swelter, temperatures on Saturday climbed into the 90s on the coast.
While the heat had some guests in search of the festival’s provided cooling station – a special tent with several misting fans for attendants to recharge under – many crowded around the variety of vendor booths to sample herbal tea, purchase vegan attire or just window-shop.
Children were active despite the early-afternoon heat, twirling around fluorescent hula hoops near the face-painting booth while parents munched on vegan donuts.
Event organizer Kawani Brown started the Long Beach Vegan Festival with her husband, Edward, three years ago in an effort to show how doable the vegan lifestyle can be to all people in their community.
Brown, a Long Beach resident, said she tried to create an event at which people from all walks of life would be welcome – with good health as the common denominator.
“We go to other [vegan] festivals [outside of Long Beach], but we wanted one in our home. We wanted one here, and we wanted one our children would be comfortable at…where adults could have fun and where kids could have fun,” Brown said. “We wanted a vibe where everybody was comfortable. Sometimes people can think veganism is out of reach for them or for a certain type of person. But you can look around and see we have everybody here, it’s very relaxed, very open and very welcoming.”
Part of the revenue from ticket sales will go toward Brown’s nonprofit, Plant Based for All, an organization rooted in Long Beach with the goal of providing wholesome and meat-free meals to those experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.
“[Plant Based for All] seeks to feed people in need, people without homes, people who need healthy, plant-based meals… We try to do healthier options,” Brown said. “It started because around the age of five [my daughter] noticed that there was a lot of homelessness [in Long Beach]. We explained what was going on to her, and she wanted to do something.”
This year’s cruelty-free celebration reported about 5,000 tickets purchased, according to Brown.
Throughout the day, attendees picnicked on the open grass while listening to live entertainment, such as musical artist Baz Francis and Long Beach-based band Slushbox.
Brown said she believes the large turnout indicates an already visible growth in Long Beach’s vegan community.
“[Veganism] has been growing in Long Beach, especially. Very vegan friendly, anytime I have people visiting from out of state I tell them you have to go to Long Beach,” Brown said.
“Even restaurants that are not solely vegan have a vegan menu, not just some options you can ask for — but an actual menu. It’s really, really happening.”