Nashville VegFest returns with more speakers, fun and veggie eats

By Zamaria Thompson, Studio M staff //

Nashville’s Vegfest, a nonprofit event that promotes a plant-based, healthy lifestyle, returns April 7 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The family-friendly festival will be filled with food samples, cooking demonstrations, giveaways and more from some of Nashville’s best plant-based restaurants.

(Logo design by Visionary Design Group)

How did a vegan festival make its way to Music City? Founder Glen Brown became passionate about the lifestyle after deciding to go vegan in 2015. A year later, he launched the first Vegfest.

“I got so excited and wondered, ’How can I spread the vegan message better?’” Brown says.

Having attended other similar festivals around the country, Brown says his main reason for starting the festival was to use the platform to bring health education to the masses in a fun way.

Interestingly, the vegan population in Nashville is booming. According to PETA, Nashville ranks as the fifth most vegan-friendly city in America.

Local vegan restaurants Avo, The Wild Cow, Sunflower Cafe and Graze, will all have a presence at this year’s festival.

Jess Rice, former owner and executive chef of Avo, Nashville’s first raw vegan restaurant, is one of this year’s featured speakers. Rice was named one of the country’s “Hottest Plant-based Chefs” by Thrive Magazine.

This year’s exhibitors and speakers range from sustainable clothing and lifestyle companies like Seattle’s Anxious Potatoes to food trucks, vegan cosmetics and vegan bodybuilders.

Personal trainer and holistic nutritionist Tay Sweat, also known as “The Vegan Trainer” on social media, will speak about how going vegan saved his life. Sweat recently released his best-selling book “The Wild Rabbit: The Solution to our Domesticated Issues,” last December.

Being an overweight teen who suffered from high blood pressure, eczema and was diagnosed pre-diabetic, Sweat became fed up with his unhealthy lifestyle and decided to change his diet at the age of 14.

“It’s a beautiful feeling to see the vegan community growing,” said Sweat.

Chef Charity Morgan, wife of Titans football player Derrick Morgan, will also speak at Vegfest. Following her husband’s decision to switch to a plant-based diet, Morgan and her two kids also became vegan. Morgan holds a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and prepares protein-packed vegan meals for 11 other Titan players who have transitioned to a plant-based diet after seeing Derrick thriving.

Chef Morgan’s favorite thing to respond to people when they argue against veganism is using her husband as an example.

“I’m never going to endanger my husband’s career … this is this guy’s bread and butter,” said Morgan.

Indeed, Morgan says there’s even a possibility that Derrick may join his wife at the event as well as some of his teammates.

Attendees will have a chance to ask questions during a live Q&A and take pictures with the speakers afterward.

Thanks to Compost Nashville, this year’s event will be “zero waste,” and the company will take any food, containers and paper products that it can turn into compost.

Tickets for Vegfest are $10 and are available through the event’s website. MTSU students can use promo code “mtsu” at checkout for a 50% discount.

Zamaria Thompson, a Nashville native, is a public relations major at Middle Tennessee State University.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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