Vegetarian Summerfest 2012

July 6th, 2012 · Lisa · Fun with Friends, Travel · Comments

As many of you know, I spent last week in Johnstown, Pennsylvania at my fourth Vegetarian Summerfest. Every year that I attend it feels more and more like coming home.

The first year, my experience was dominated by meeting the people in this movement that I’d always admired, now those relationships have deepened and my memories are more about time spent with friends who are starting to feel like family. Arriving in the parking lot, surrounded by cars with pro-veg bumper stickers feels more like a reunion than a conference.

I can’t imagine anything more amazing then a yearly, rejuvenating reunion with your chosen family.

In the past I’ve presented at VegSummerfest on topics like Emotional Well-Being for Activitists, Culitvating Compassion and Compassionate Relationships, but after a year of teaching and travel I decided to forego the powerpoint prework and volunteer in the children’s center instead. I knew a little time spent colouring, playing with friendship bracelets and singing with some of the festivals most inspiring individuals would be time well-spent. It was.

Looking back on the week that was, it is easy to see why I keep going back. For me, VegSummerfest is about:

  • Meeting the people who have shaped your world and changed your life (In past years I’ve been overwhelmed by finally meeting my heroes like Colleen Patrick GoudreauBrenda Davis, Fran Costigan, and Jill Nussinow. This year I had the chance to spend time with all of them, although now instead of greeting them with awe it is a warm embrace and a good catch-up session. This year I finally met the phenomenal Dreena Burton, the amazing Heather Nauta, and enjoyed a chance to chat with the incredible Joseph Connelly). If your soul need some inspiration – spending a little time with the people who are revolutionizing our reality seems to be the secret for me.
  • Feasting on nourshing food that fits your ethics and your palate – including piles of kale salad that someone else massaged. The endless buffets at VegSummerfest are legendary. This year the epic task was given to Mark Reinfeld (of Blossuming Lots and Vegan Fusion fame. He did a spectacular job wearing a serene smile the entire time. I also love the cooking demos – this year Chef AJ, Dreen Burton and Allison Rivers Samson wowed the crowds.
  • Learning about persuasive research that validates your beliefs. This is one of the things that keeps me coming back. I like to stay on top of the research literature, the rumours and the trends so that I can respond to peoples’ questions and concerns throughout the year. I enjoyed updates from Dr. Gregor, Dr. Klaper, Julieanna Hever and Neal Barnard this year, on topics such as how plant-based diets reduce our risk for: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, digestive issues, alzheimers and dimentia. If you need a more steady stream of information check out the daily video posts on
  • Nourishing the part of you that needs to dance, laugh and burpee despite the heavy issues you plan to tackle. VegSummerfest has any amazing menu of interesting options to keep everyone occupied over five days. I enjoy the serious academic discussions as much as I yearn for the chance to let loose on the dance floor. (Thanks to Allison Rivers Samson, Jennifer Loshark, Wendy Weiselberg White, John Pierre, Jamie Karpovich and Maureen Orrico who shared in the revelry.)
  • Feeling a part of something big, something important, something worth your passion, determination and time. (I always leave VegSummerfest completely in awe of the brilliant souls involved in this work. Thank you to everyone who attended – you are all incredible sources of inspiration and support. Jenny Brown, Rae Sikora, Harold Brown, Jonathan Balcombe and Jerry Cook thank you for using your gentle ways to shake the world.)

At VegSummerfest I fill up on hugs and stories that will last me for the whole year. The connections, the friendships, the mentors and the memories are worth so much more than the 5 day investment of my time and attention.

Thank you to everyone who made this event such an experience.

If you are considering attending next year’s ‘fest check out these videos to get an inside glimpse into what it’s all about:

Sarina Farb created an amazing 5 minute recap video

Heather Nautu creating this fantastic video on 10 tips from awesome vegans to help you transition 

Plus the always articulate Victoria Moran has posted ALL of her presentation materials on her Mainstreet Vegan blog  Pretty fantastic, huh?

If you’d like to read more about VegSummerfest check out my recaps from 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Where do you go when you need to spend time with your tribe?

p.s. Big thank you to Vegan Fusion (Tara!), Jerry Cook, Jennifer Loshark and Allison Rivers Samsom for sharing their photographs online. I failed to bring my camera out of its bag all week. xo


  1. Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    It looks like such a great event!  I’ve always heard that the Vegetarian Summerfest is something truly special and like a vegan sleep-away camp.  I would love to visit for myself someday.  It’s so rejuvenating to connect with likeminded people!

  2. Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    It looks like such a great event!  I’ve always heard that the Vegetarian Summerfest is something truly special and like a vegan sleep-away camp.  I would love to visit for myself someday.  It’s so rejuvenating to connect with likeminded people!

  3. Posted July 10, 2012 at 6:42 am

    I clapped when you appeared onscreen on the 10 Tips video. I was waiting for that moment. And I laughed along with Heather when almost everyone, including you, picked “kale” as their favourite vegetable! Oh, how I can’t wait to have endless bowls of kale with you. I want to taste this wonder drug. I mean vegetable. Yep.

  4. Heathy
    Posted July 15, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Looks like lots of fun Lisa. I need to make it to one of these festivals! 

  5. Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    oh, Lisa, I have no idea how I missed this when you posted it – but I’m glad I came across it now!! You are the sweetest, it was wonderful to finally meet you, too, and I’m looking forward to meeting up again some time soon! xox

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