Veganfest in the IE

“We definitely will be back!”  event organizer Edward Yniguez said.  “It’s a promising start!”

Judging from the crowd milling in front of the vegan food booths, it seemed more than promising.

Imagine my surprise when this vegan festival popped up in my facebook notifications for March.  In our corner of California, there are only two recognizable vegan places to eat, the Loving Hut in Claremont and the Loving Hut in Upland.   It was startling to see an event dedicated to vegan food.

There had been a festival earlier that month but finding no news coverage of it, I was determined to visit the Inland Empire Vegan Festival on Saturday, March 30.  

I was late to the event (we had been viewing the wildflower superbloom on a five mile hike that morning.) So I missed the panels of speakers and their presentations about vegan food, health and fitness, principles and lifestyles.  But the live music of Twin Seas still filled the air.

The vegan movement in the United States has roots in the 1960s with the founding of the American Vegan Society by Jay Dimshah in New Jersey.  It spawned a movement that combined vegetarian principles with broader lifestyle approaches, journal publications and conferences that seem to have morphed into vegan festivals.  The term vegan today refers to an individual whose food choices are limited to plant based items and who may also eschew non-food animal products.

The IE Veganfest’s facebook page indicated more than 13,000 people interested in attending the event.  And it seemed to me that at 5:00 pm,  hundreds were still there, waiting in long lines that clogged the food booths and vendors.

This was definitely an opportunity to try vegan foods not easily found in our daily lives…ice cream, cinnamon rolls, Korean fusion dumplings, cakes, cookies, tamales, pizza, macaroni and cheese, burritos, sushii, “junk” (comfort) food.  There was Thai food, Mexican food, Indian food, noodles, salads and pastries! And the long lines and sold out signs on some booths confirmed the local interest.

“It’s inspiring to have a lot of the food vendors sell out,” Yniguez said. 

He had not known what to expect when he and his wife, Kawani Brown, planned the event for the inland area. They knew there were few vegan restaurants here and had no idea how many people would be interested.  Yniguez and Brown began planning and managing vegan events in Long Beach four years ago, starting with the Vegan District, a food court and marketplace at the Pike Outlets. Three years ago, they presented the Long Beach Veganfest and this year, the IE Veganfest.

I spoke to one of the vendors whose booth was empty but for a “sold out” sign.  Unlike at other booths, he seemed to have the time to chat.  A relaxed Ray Fierro agreed, “We will be back!”   

The sold out goodies, chewey baked goods, were created by Amber Rose Martinez under her brand, Mama Chingona Vegana.  All that was left in her booth was a lonely roll in a large pink box.  Like Yniguez, Fierro was enthused by the crowds of interested people, noting some had driven a long way. 

“People were coming out from Ventura and Pasadena,” he said.

There are other Vegan events scheduled for the inland area, from April to June.  But this is one to watch for next year.

“It is a promising start that bodes well for the movement in this area.  Since it is a free event for the people, we can educate and people will come and learn about it and try it,”  Yniguez said.



See also:, by Clark Maynard.


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