Every year, one of the country’s biggest vegetarian lifestyle festivals takes place in Lisle, Ill. It comes complete with an impressive international food court, vendors, demonstrations, and speakers. The 12th annual Veggie Fest takes place at Benedictine University this year on 8/12-8/13.

The food court is one of the event’s big draws, and includes raw, vegan, and non-dairy items. It includes the Caribbean Kitchen booth, with veggie-chicken dishes and South Indian dosas. This year, you can also enjoy the new Indonesian booth, three new kinds of pies, sweet lassis, and Indian snacks like Raj Kachori, Papdi, and Bhelpuri.

Or stick with the tried and true – Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Mexican. The kids can get pizza and ice cream, too. Lighter fare includes organic salads, fruit smoothies, and fresh juices. Expect baked goods, iced cappucchinos, fresh fruits, nachos, fries, veggie kabobs, and young coconuts cracked in front of you. There’s something for everyone, highlighting how much variety there is in the vegetarian diet!

Speakers for this year’s event include the keynote speaker, Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, along with medical professionals, diplomats, entrepreneurs, authors, lawyers, and more They’ll speak about diet, healthy living, and the environment.

Food demos are also a big part of the weekend. Check out restaurants and chefs like Jimmy John Shark, cookbook authors, and guest chefs offering demonstrations throughout the festival.  New this year: yoga classes.

Live music is also provided. Performances include vegan singer-songwriter Zach, reggae sounds from Gizzae, V. Holmes singing a tribute to Motown, and The Giving Tree Band. The Rico band covers Santana, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and others.

Because Veggie Fest is a family-oriented event, it also includes fun and educational activities for children. Enjoy face painting, arts and crafts, music, and a play area. You can also join the Vegi-Kid’s Parade on both days, and learn to meditate.

The 6th Annual Art Show features art with a theme: vegetarianism, non-violence, love for animals, or meditation. More than 100 vendor booths focus on all aspects of healthy living. There’s plenty to do here.

You can also take the Vegetarian Challenge, which encourages everyone to try being a vegetarian for two weeks. You receive emailed recipes, support in the form of tips, and a special goodie bag when you arrive at Veggie Fest.

More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the two-day festival. To be honest, many of them may only be coming for the food. But that’s okay, as the food is pretty delicious. And famous.

Festival admission and parking are free! So there’s basically no reason to miss this one. Veggie Fest Chicago 2017 takes place at Benedictive University, 5700 College Rd. in Lisle, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m on 8/12-8/13. For more information, visit www.veggiefestchicago.org.  To check out some videos of last year’s event, visit the YouTube channel.

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