How many vegans does it take to make history? I don’t have a snappy punchline on hand, but last Saturday in Chicago’s Grant Park area, vegans did make history in Chicago’s first annual Veggie Pride Parade. Well over 100 vegetarian, vegan, and veg-curious marchers, along with a few tail-wagging pets, marched in downtown Chicago to promote a plant-based lifestyle.
Following in the footsteps of similar parades worldwide located in cities such as Paris, Toronoto, and New York; Chicago’s first ever Veggie Pride Parade featured local guest speakers, free samples of vegan food and products, and a costume contest for creative parade-goers. Organized on a completely volunteer basis by and for Chicago’s veggie community, the parade was a celebration of the history of veganism: how far the movement has come, and the exciting progress that it continues to make.
“The message I have for you all today is this: don’t be the ‘angry vegan,’” said speaker Karyn Calabrese, owner of the country’s longest-standing raw foods restaurant, Karyn’s Raw, as well as two other vegan-friendly restaurants in Chicago. “When I opened a raw foods restaurant over 20 years ago, people thought I was crazy. But lead by example. Respect where others are on their paths.”
“When I first joined the vegan movement, it was just a few of us meeting up regularly. I remember we would rejoice whenever a coffee shop started featuring soy milk!” said speaker Marla Rose, vegan activist, author, and co-founder of the Midwest’s largest vegan festival, Chicago VeganMania. “Now, it’s an expectation that most places will have vegan treats on offer. Be proud of veganism... don’t be shy about it!”
Other speakers included Mikael Nielsen, Chicago Campaign Coordinator for Mercy For Animals; Marisa Buchheit, Miss Chicago 2012 (and outspoken vegan!); and Dr. Terry Mason, Chief Medical Officer at Cook County Health and Hospitals System (you can see him featured in the documentary “Forks Over Knives”). “We are on the right side of history,” Dr. Mason said. “And Cook County will begin to officially advocate nutrition-based health care to its patients.”
Universal in scope, but uniquely Chicagoan in style, the day was another triumph for the veggie community in a city once known for its meat-and-cheese-rich diet. Filled with inspiring stories and plenty of giveaways (thanks to the many sponsors, including Soul Vegetarian, Fake Meats, Tofutti, and others), all of Chicago’s veggie population is already looking forward to next year—and the bigger and better Veggie Pride Parades to come!
Photo credit: Danielle Snow