I originally wrote this post two years ago. I have just added a bit of video from the entertainment at last year's (2017) Summerfest --- It's a really funny musical skit featuring Miyoko Shinner (Founder of Miyoko's Kitchen) Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org and Dr. Ted Barnett (Rochester Lifestyle Medicine). This year, (2018) The big news is that Vegetarian Summerfest will henceforth be called Vegan Summerfest. Enjoy!
Highlights of the 2016 NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest
If you've never been there -- words and pictures simply fall far short of capturing the magic, the love, and the soul-affirming feeling of connection, hope and healing that is the essence of the North American Vegetarian Society's Summerfest Conference. Scroll down to see lots of pictures from this year's conference -- and notice what a vibrant looking bunch of humans are there! I've been to many other conferences -- and although they may share similar speakers, offer equivalent educational opportunities, provide tantalizing food and fun social gatherings, nothing I have yet experienced comes close to creating what the majority of the 600 plus attendees who pilgrimage to this event each year experience: Summerfest quite spectacularly and reliably renews people by immersing them
If you've never been there -- words and pictures simply fall far short of capturing the magic, the love, and the soul-affirming feeling of connection, hope and healing that is the essence of the North American Vegetarian Society's Summerfest Conference. Scroll down to see lots of pictures from this year's conference -- and notice what a vibrant looking bunch of humans are there! I've been to many other conferences -- and although they may share similar speakers, offer equivalent educational opportunities, provide tantalizing food and fun social gatherings, nothing I have yet experienced comes close to creating what the majority of the 600 plus attendees who pilgrimage to this event each year experience: Summerfest quite spectacularly and reliably renews people by immersing them for five extraordinary days in the very best that humanity has to offer. It connects them with the most extraordinary social justice heroes past and present, inspires them to live more healthfully by exposing them to cutting edge science that has real tangible applications enabling improved health and quality of life, and inspires everyone to live meaningful lives, to do good deeds, to learn and grow in their humanity and scientific literacy, to be critical thinkers, and to do their part to make our world a better place.
Really -- I don't go there for the food -- even though I love that the cafeteria has two salad bars, a raw food bar, a gluten-free bar, and an oil and salt-free bar. That's in addition to the regular line of somewhat more decadent vegan fare. There is also a pizza station -- which had gluten-free pizzas too, and there are always lots of desserts -- my favorite was the banana split station with melted chocolate, strawberries and peaches too. Here I am pictured with a small contingency of my, "chosen family." Many of us lingered at the table long after meal time had ended -- we all felt even more nourished by the intellectual stimulation, laughter, sharing of deeply held values and time spent with kindhearted others. Although there was a downside to our 2 hour long meals -- it meant we sometimes missed other activities! Oh well -- such are the challenges of life at Vegetarian Summerfest.
It's always fun to see the various shirts people wear too!
Wonderful vendors were selling other T-shirts, make-up, health-promoting gadgets, books, food items, nutritional supplements and other interesting stuff -- all cruetly-free of course!
Many nights, after the evening lectures ended, the party and dancing started.
One of the things I have always loved about Summerfest -- is how comfortably people mix together there and feel welcomed and included no matter what their age. After Dancing we'd end up in smaller groups back in our dorm rooms -- it was just so hard to pull yourself away and go to sleep!
Now that I am thinking about the young people there -- I must share this with you -- I just LOVED it!
While all the lectures are going on, children also have the option of hanging out at the Summerfest Children's Center -- where they do crafts, swim, play games, learn songs and have a more "camp-like" experience. Then, on Saturday night the children all got up on stage and sang a song for everyone. Ok -- I was late to this because I had just finished giving a presentation in a building that was far away -- so I only saw the last bit -- which was my favorite part it's about five minutes into the video....
Video of Children Singing
Once or twice a day we had big events called, "Plenaries" In the large performing arts center at the UPJ Campus. I especially loved these sessions because I didn't have to pick between multiple lectures happening at the same time (and miss something!) The Plenaries included lectures, and entertainment --Here the crowd is so thrilled with music from some long time Summerfest attendees (many of whom are quite talented) -- click on these links to see videos of some of the musical numbers we enjoyed:
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Coyote (original song)
One of the things we always look forward to is finding out who will be inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame -- a special event that takes place at the Saturday night plenary. This year it was Miyoko Schinner, a culinary genius who has written some of my favorite recipe books. one of her early books, now and Zen Epicure fused Japanese and French cuisine for some unique and tantalizing recipes. More recently I was wowed by her, Artisan Vegan Cheese Book, and our local library has her newest book, The Homemade Vegan Pantry. But her greatest achievement is as founder of Miyoko's Kitchen - one of the most innovative food companies ever. Miyoko's brilliance was applying traditional cheese making techniques (used with mammary secretions from cows and goats) to plant-based milks. (So no pus!) and the results have been just as delicious, seductive and addictive as the cheese I grew up on, but without the cholesterol and violence. I know before I went vegan -- my biggest concern was, "How could I live without cheese?" (Thankfully it turned out that once I was clear in my commitment -- an easy thing to do after I learned about how brutally cruel and unjust dairy farming is to mothers and their babies, it was easier than I expected.) But now, thanks to Miyoko's genius -- the whole world (or at least those who can afford Artisan Cheeses) can now enjoy them without contributing to the most horrific injustices against other beings. They are now available at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, and through UNFI. (And for those who can't afford to buy artisan cheese you can make your own non-dairy cheese alternatives by following my recipes Here and Here. (And check our her newest book I've linked to above if you like to learn how to make your own pantry staples!) Thank you Miyoko Schinner and congratulations on being inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame.
I gave four talks this year: (1) You CAN Take it With You -- Eating for Optimal Health on the Road, (2) Twenty Evidence-Backed Ideas for Parents to Consider to Facilitate Optimal Health in their Children, (3) What Vegans Need to Know About Gluten, and (4) Healthy Aging, and What We Can Learn From Science and Healthy Older Vegans. Here is a photo a friend snapped of me just after I was dancing at the Sat night party.
One of the Summerfest benefits I am grateful for is that my family gets exposed to important published scientific findings -- including one's that get very little coverage in the mainstream media (When it comes to health, media coverage is often skewed towards covering biased studies funded by large moneyed interests who'd rather make their advertisers happy by telling people good news about their bad habits.) This was a slide up on the big screen during one presentation.
A long time Summerfest favorite -- Dr. T Colin Campbell, shown here with his wife. Talk about inspiring! At 82 years of age, he is brilliant, full of vigor and darn good at explaining the science to those with less education. He grew up on a dairy farm, but was willing and able to go where the science led him -- which included the upper echelons of academia and government prestige -- until big ag flexed its muscle. Dr Campbell spoke eloquently about the multiple lines of research that all point to the power of whole plant foods and the dangers of animal protein, and explained how all evidence to the contrary relies upon reductionist thinking -- which leads to incorrect conclusions. See his wonderful book, Whole -- Rethinking the Science of Nutrition for a full discussion of this idea.
Perhaps you've already heard of this Summerfest speaker He's been making a splash sharing some extraordinary scientific findings about fish on NPR, the National Geographic channel, Scientific American, and the NY Times: Fishes have feelings too. He's ethologist, Jonathan Balcombe and he fascinated the Summerfest attendees with his stories demonstrating the complex intelligence of fish.
Cardiologist Baxter Montgomery was back presenting on "The Healthcare Center of the Future" He's the founder of Montgomery Heart and wellness. Other Doctors who presented this year included, Michael Klaper, (True North Health) Michael Greger, (NutritionFacts.org) Stephen Esser, Ron Weiss (Founder Ethos Health and Primary Care) and Milton Mills (PCRM).
On the right is Interventional Radiologist, Ted Barnett, who not only led bird watching hikes through the woods, but made us laugh during his quite serious presentation, "U.S Dietary Recommendations and the Politics of Food" which he explained have been a formula for, "How NOT to prevent disease."
(Ted is pictured here with his nephew Lee J)
(Ted is pictured here with his nephew Lee J)
And here we have graduates of the Main Street Vegan Academy pictured with Speaker/Author Victoria Moran (standing) who after decades of being vegan looks better than ever at 67! Standing on the left is Unitarian Church minister Russell Elleven who presented on, "Religion and Vegetarianism -- Ties that Bind."
Hey -- a photo that has all four members of MY ACTUAL family in it -- plus a few more of our additional chosen family....Can you SEE how much everyone is beaming? And this was on the very last day as we were getting ready to leave -- everyone is terribly sleep deprived here -- AND some of us ate way too much dessert -- but you wouldn't know it because the love and positive vibes and afterglow of this event are THAT powerful! In the white shirt is Farmer Harold Brown, who not only sings beautifully (I just discovered this) but really is a hero to so many of us (and the subject of the tribe of Heart Documentary, Peaceable Kingdom.) The cutie in the green tank top is Allison Rivers Sampson -- who taught Nia classes, and then touched our hearts with her closing words at the final plenary on Sunday.
In spite of how long this post is -- I have barely even touched on the content of this year's summerfest -- there was so much more! My apologies to those whose pictures and or names are not up here -- it was a huge effort to just cover the little bit that I did, and I didn't do a very good job of taking pictures this year (in fact many I have posted are what others shared with me.) So be sure to Take a look at the actual program to see a complete listing of all the speakers and the sessions, activities, fitness classes, cooking demos and entertainment:
(We are now in the "time between Summerfests")