Visiting for the veggie vibe

Switching to vegetarian, vegan and raw diets can lead to plenty of questions for people looking to change up their food regimens.

This Sunday, March 27, however, VegMichigan aims to answer these questions at the annual VegFest.

Taking place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, the vegetarian taste fest and expo will feature over 50 local vendors and exhibitors of meat-free cuisine.

Admission for this year’s VegFest is $10 at the door $5 for students and VegMichigan members have free admission. Parking will also be free for the event.

Previous to changing the event name to VegFest, it was called The Great American MeatOut and has been an international event since 1985, Wendy Jones said, event chair for the festival. Last year, VegFest was held in Ferndale and had more than 2,100 attendees. The move to Novi’s Showplace is expected to boost that attendance to almost 3,000.

“We’re hoping to gain some people from Ann Arbor,” Jones said. “One thing that was a source of frustration for people last year was that there wasn’t much good parking at Ferndale High School. This year we will have lots and lots of free parking. We’re hoping that encourages more people to come.”

Jones hopes that visitors and newcomers will gain a fresh perspective of what a vegan or vegetarian diet means, as well as trying out something different in a culinary sense.

“I certainly hope that anyone who eats meat or dairy would learn a little bit more about the impact of that choice, whether it is to their health, the planet or to animals,” Jones said. “To those that are already vegetarian or vegan, I would hope that they learn more tools to explain to others how it is such a beneficial diet.”

VegFest will feature, among other local and national speakers, two well-known headliners: celebrity chef and best-selling author Tal Ronnen and former Detroit Piston John Salley.

With the unique appeal of each guest speaker, Jones expects the event to attract many different types of people.

“Chef Tal has an association with Oprah (Winfrey), and she’s got a huge following. She tends to try and explore things that are healthier, so I think (Ronnen) will really draw in the people who are interested in a healthier diet,” Jones said. “John Salley, of course, used to play in Detroit. He’s not someone you would expect to be a vegan; he’s a really big guy. That really turns some heads and gets people thinking, ‘well if John Salley is exploring this diet, maybe I should find out more about it.'”

Beyond the appeal of discounted ticket prices and free food, Jones hopes that college students who attend VegFest gain knowledge they might not have otherwise obtained.

Jones said a key draw for college students to the event is the want to make a positive difference in the world by learning different ways to help animals and protect the planet.

“Health may not be the number one thing for students, but health care costs are something that have affected all of us. I think all of those things would draw in a college student.”

For more information about VegMichigan and VegFest, visit