Miami Florida USA
Written and Photos By Sason Bishope Parry
Miami is known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, entertainment scene, and international cuisine. Still, this weekend was all about Vegandale, an all-vegan festival that has been bringing veganism to cities around the country. The festival rolled into its last stop at the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park on Saturday, December 2, for its third year since 2019. Since its debut, the festival has evolved into one of the Nation’s biggest touring festival brands and vegan experiences. Before hitting Miami, Vegandale had stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas, and its original home based in Toronto.
What makes Vegandale unique is not only do organizers showcase all that veganism has to offer in plant-based foods, innovative vegan products, fashion, and activism, but they also feature live music, DJs, and art installations. “I’m here for the delicious vegan food, but also here to see my man DJ Khaled rock the stage,” said Michael Ores, a South Florida resident who came to Vegandale with his family and friends. Headliner DJ Khaled seemed like the perfect tap for Vegandale organizers, with the hip-hop superstar gracing the cover of Rolling Stone this month and embracing plant-based food.
The Miami edition brought out thousands of fans from all walks of life who flocked to the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park to participate in the all-vegan affair. Some arrived as early as 11 am to avoid long vendor lines and ensure they had ample time to explore everything the festival offered. By the size of the crowd midway into the festival, there was no doubt that South Florida’s vegan scene was thriving. Recent years have seen many vegan restaurants popping up, as well as most non-vegan spots offering plant-based options.
From the moment you walked through Vegandale’s marquee entrance, organizers had impressive artwork and signs donning vegan quotes and inspiring messages about all the reasons to go vegan. It was like walking into a vegan paradise, one I’m sure every vegan dreams the world will become one day. Nonstop beats pulsated from the stage from start to finish, with DJs setting the mood for some delicious vegan eats. At the same time, powerhouse host and vegan motivational coach Scott Bernard kept fans dancing all day and raising people’s vibrations with his fantastic energy. The heat was unbearable at times, however, Virginia Key is a beautiful venue that has big trees that outline the perimeter of the park and ocean views along the water, which allows fans to relax and enjoy some cool breeze and lots of trails and picnic areas to enjoy all the vegan treats. Also, organizers allowed fans to bring in their bottled water, which was a good move, given how hot it sometimes got.
100s of vegan tents lined the perimeters of the festival site with a wide assortment of delicious plant-based food and beverages, clothing, cruelty-free beauty products, and delectable vegan sweets. It was impossible to check out and try everything in one day, but given the eagerness and excitement of everyone in attendance, they were determined to try. Even if that meant rolling them out in wheel barrels from a dose of vegan food coma, which was easy to get, given everything looked so mouthwatering. Jokes aside, there has always been a stigma from non-vegans who assume that going vegan means giving up your favourite foods and eating like a rabbit or consuming tasteless grass-like food. Nothing can be further from the truth, and the reality is there are over 10’s of thousands of edible plants in the world. Today, creative and innovative people are taking plant-based cuisine to unbelievable heights of deliciousness and guilt-free pleasures. Those who attended Vegandale were treated to an array of tasty options, throwing any notion that the modern vegan food movement is bland or limiting out the window.
Food highlights included Pinche Vegana, voted New York Citi’s best Mexican vegan food curated by the passionate vegan Chef Erika Munoz. The vegan fried tacos were to die for, and the elite drenched with vegan cream, and hot sauce was on fire.
“How is this vegan? Pinche Vegana.” – Founder|Chef Erika Munoz
There was modern-vegan sushi from Ikigai for sushi lovers, founded by Dallas, Texas, native and innovative sushi chef Chris Vu. The spicy no-fish tuna rolls, made mainly from carrots, were delectable. “Fish are friends, says Chris Vu, and my goal is to inspire people to eat “no fish” plant-based sushi that is delicious and better for our oceans.” The inspiring vegan chef outdid himself and has plans to launch an entire Japanese fusion of plant-based food offerings. Another favourite was Southern California’s Srey Vegan, which had delicious Cambodian fusion offerings. Chef and founder Surray Lor said, “My vision has always been to spread plant-based love through my food.” By the looks of the line, there seemed to be lots of love from fans for her dishes. The Hook-Up plate, which had vegan shrimp, beef made from tofu served over rice, and a side salad, was the bomb!
No cuisine can be complete without delicious pasta, and Staten Island-based Capital Vegan’s Lasagna made sure fans didn’t leave hungry. Founder Mike Newkem says his plant-based lasagna is like no other, “I make the best Lasagna in the world, and I guarantee you won’t believe it’s made from plants.”
On a hot day in Miami, delicious plant-based beverages are always a good idea, and there were many great vegan beverage vendors hydrating fans all day. Sixteen-year-old vegan Marquise Mcbride came all the way from Dallas, Texas, to serve up his Froot Kave vegan Ph balanced lemonade blends, which included tasty flavours like watermelon and OG lemonade. For the healthy Kombucha lovers, Doctor Stewart Dimson, aka Doctor D, was onsite with his co-founder, wife, Susan, giving out free samples of their new Doctor D’s sparkling probiotic flavours, root beer, and classic cola. Doctor D, who specializes in Chinese medicine, said, “My goal was to make living vegan drinks that we make from nature so people could have a healthier version of their favourite soda.” The root beer flavour definitely hit the spot, and it felt even better going down, knowing that it was fueling my body and feeding my gut with friendly probiotics.
And, of course, Vegandale would not be complete without a few cold press juice vendors like Miami’s Just Juice, founded by vegan husband-and-wife team Michael and Auri Cuan. “Our cold press juices are 100% frozen, all-natural veggies blended into healing perfection”, said Michael Cuan. Not only did they have delicious and healthy juices, but they could have won the award for best custom-made food truck! For those who wanted a more ice-cold Caribbean-style drink, Justina Predulus and her company Carib Blends were happy to make you custom vegan slushies. Flavours like Tina Coloda, the charcoal-infused Swamp Dawg, and my favourite, Let That Mango, had people coming back all day for refills.
“We make plant-based blends from Paradise.” – Marquise Mcbride
For the sweet tooths, Brown Suga Vegan was on hand with their tasty desserts made by Kapreta Johnson. Her cookies were so good there was no way anyone could tell they were vegan. There was also the inspiring South Florida dessert baker Jamie Nicole, who launched her own vegan custom bakery, Sally’s Sweet Eats, named after her dog. She had a variety of delicious vegan desserts made with love, including her best-selling vegan carrot cake, which was out of this world.
“Were founded with the goal of spreading empathy, love, and vegan sweet treats to friends far and near.” – Jamie Nicole – Founder | Baker
For ice cream lovers, Florida’s own Cleveland Smith was on hand with his delicious almond-based vegan ice cream flavours. After 35 years of building the dream of another ice cream maker, he had the perfect formula to branch out and start Cleveland’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream. He found instant success and is touted as South Florida’s #1 ice cream maker. The mango and grape nut flavours were a massive hit amongst vegans and non-vegans alike!
There were also lots of excellent vegan fashion and clothing brands like Tough Vegan Apparel with hip and eccentric T’s and hoodies branded “Vegan Barbie” and “Plant-Based Pussy”, which was definitely an eye-catcher. Another cool vegan clothing line was Vegan Attacks, founded by the inspiring vegan Reyna Soto. Her Los Angeles-based vegan company had many cool T’s and tank tops with cool prints featuring aliens and catchy taglines like “Vegans Come in Peace” and “Eat Plants.” Being a vegan and an artist musician, one of my favourite brands was the very cool, Los Angeles-based Vegans Rock Apparel line founded by long-time vegan Jeff Pearcy. I loved his signature hoodies printed with his brand name and the cropped long-sleeve hoodies and Ts that simply said “Vegan” were top sellers.
“Spreading the vegan message through kickass apparel.” – Jeff Pearcy – Vegans Rock
Vegandale Miami had it all. Lots of great plant-based food and brands from all over the country, cool vegan art décor, and loads of good vibes all day. But, of course, the night wasn’t complete until the highly anticipated headliner, DJ Khaled, hit the stage. Thousands of fans packed in deep to catch a good view of the hip-hop superstar, known for his excellent MCing skills and positive demeanour. He’s often heard shouting quotes like, “God is great, so at the end of the day and beginning of the day, I thank God.” DJ Khaled has not formally announced that he is vegan but has recently been aligning himself with a plant-based diet and pushing it to his fans. He recently promoted veganism to a massive crowd of 40,000 on the Jay Z and Beyonce tour, shouting out, “Do we have any vegans in the house.” He contributes a recent vegan 22-day meal challenge to help him shed some pounds and is a big fan of almond milk and promoting a dairy-free lifestyle.
“Almond milk + cinnamon crunch = major key to success.” – DJ Khaled
The veteran performer took the Vegandale stage with poise and confidence kick, starting his more than an hour-long energetic set with his signature hype man screams. He immediately got the crowd fired up and, moving to his fiery beats, performed many of his big hits like “Popstar.” At one point, he slowed things down, and as the crowd grew silent, he transformed from hip-hop star to inspiring preacher telling fans, “Look up into the sky. Do any of you believe in God?” Then, almost on cue, he knelt down and turned the stage into a place of worship. His positive energy resonated out into the festival grounds. As I looked around, I could feel the vibration of others, some with hands in prayer, others with phone lights waving back and forth, and it felt like we were all unified under the stars. It was as though Vegandale had just transcended to a magical paradise where cruelty-free living was the norm, and DJ Khaled was the chosen messiah leading the pack to an enlightened state of mind, at least for that moment in time. The good vibes resonated in the air as he continued his set, and fans danced along to every final beat.
Vegandale turned out to be an excellent fusion of love, music, good vibes, spiritual awareness, and, of course, delicious vegan food and beverages all around. I’m not sure if organizers planned it that way, but the festival couldn’t have ended on a better note. It was the perfect setting and close to a beautiful day at the Historic Virgina Key Beach Park. If there were one minor constructive complaint I heard from a few fans, it would have been to have more seated and shaded areas, but overall, it was a great experience. I’m sure the festival even inspired many V-curious folks in attendance to finally make the leap to go vegan. One thing is for sure, Vegandale reaffirmed the power the vegan lifestyle can have on hearts, minds, and souls as it continues its growth into the global mainstream.
For more info on Vegandale, go to: www.vegandalefest.com