Herbivore haven coming to Winnipeg

VegFest taking place this Saturday

The VegFest team. Pictured from left to right: Holly Alexandra, Trevor Chapen, Jonas Watson, Nikki Chapen, Brittany Semeniuk, Jason Hannan, Randy Tonnellier, Vanessa Parks, Jeremy Botelho, Melissa Serbin, Michelle Tree, and Ellie Earthling.

From hobby-horsing to a vegan mac and cheese cook-off, VegFest is the first vegan and vegetarian festival to take place in Manitoba. The festival will host a number of speakers, cruelty-free food and artisan vendors, and family-friendly activities.  

“Winnipeg is one of the last cities in North America to be hosting one,” Jason Hannan, the festival’s lead organizer, said.

A staple of larger Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Montreal, smaller cities including Hamilton and London, Ontario, have begun to host vegetarian festivals as well.   

“There’s a large and thriving community of vegans, vegetarians, environmentalists, and activists, and this is a way to bring them all together under one big tent where they can have important, lively conversations, eat good food, participate in vegan fun and entertainment,” Hannan said.

“It’s long overdue and we’re hoping to establish this.” 

Stella’s Café and Bakery, Feast Cafe Bistro, and The Velvet Glove are among the vendors set to cater the event. Stella’s will be premiering a new vegetarian dish – the Whole Bowl  – that can be made vegan during the festival. Koren Thomas-Mueller, catering director for Stella’s for the weekend, said Stella’s vegan dishes are exceptionally popular.

“We find even those who typically eat meat will give our vegan or vegetarian options a try and provide their feedback,” she said. She said she expects the festival will shed light on vegan meal options already available in Winnipeg.

The festival will host six keynote speakers from varying backgrounds relating to animal compassion and activism, including Winnipeg’s David Nickarz, vice president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – Canada, and Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.

Nickarz has been a vegan for 25 years and has attended vegan festivals in other cities, including Melbourne, Australia.

“It’s the first one in Winnipeg so it won’t be the biggest, but we’re hoping to get a lot of people curious about it.”

Benjamin Dueck, a University of Winnipeg student and a vegan, is looking forward to seeing Adams speak at the festival.

“She’s an academic, but she writes in a way that cuts straight to your emotions without coming off as aggressive or preachy, a stereotype that a lot of animal rights thinkers have to overcome,” Dueck said.

The festival’s organizers aim to make the festival an annual event that could strengthen Winnipeg’s vegetarian and vegan communities.

“This is the first time I’ve seen an event tying together food, ideas and fun, happening on such a large scale,” Dueck said.

He said he hopes it will also serve to bring various communities together.  


The first annual VegFest takes place on Sept. 16 at the University of Winnipeg Axworthy Health and Recplex. Doors open at 9 a.m.