VegBash brings vegetarian treats to Ann Arbor

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

Plant-based foodies are in for a treat this weekend with the return of the Great Lakes Regional VegBash Plant Based Food Festival at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. The event – back for its fifth year – features plant-based food products, exhibits and music, as well as an artisan market and family activities.

“We pride ourselves on being an event for vegans, vegetarians and, even more importantly, those individuals are simply looking to add more plant-based options into their diet,” said Bill Lonskey, owner and senior event coordinator of the Quintessential Event Company that produces the festival. “It is important that all of these individuals have a safe ‘oasis of deliciousness’ where they can gather, indulge and celebrate plant-based cuisine.”

More than 40 businesses will take part in the festival, including concessions where guests can eat plant-based meals, baked goods and confections. There will also be exhibits from plant-based food product entrepreneurs, cruelty-free shopping vendors and information from complementary nonprofit organizations. 

Lonskey said educating people on a plant-based diet is critical for multiple reasons. 

“Beyond animal welfare arguments, a full or even a more ‘flexitarian’ (semi-vegetarian) plant-based diet can help reduce blood pressure, promote better cardiovascular health and aid in preventing Type 2 diabetes,” he said. “It can also help you lose weight and multiple other health benefits.”

The festival started in Royal Oak in 2015 in response to an increased demand for vegan and vegetarian food options from the company’s existing food-themed events. Within a year, it expanded to a number of other cities including Shelby Township, Lansing and Grand Rapids, as well as Toledo, Cleveland and Canton, Ohio, in addition to Ann Arbor.

Lonskey said the local plant-based food industry was hit hard by COVID-19 and is struggling to recover. He said the event will be scaled back from previous years and, more than ever, will need the support of the community.

“The turnout for this year’s events across Michigan and Ohio will ultimately determine whether this huge asset to the plant- based community will have what it takes to continue,” he said.

For COVID safety, Lonskey said the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds offer plenty of openness and fresh air, and the buildings in use will be kept well-ventilated. Hand sanitizing stations will be present throughout, and common surfaces will be routinely cleaned. He said additional spacing will be allotted between vendors to allow for social distancing.

Lonskey said people should attend because the event is unique, fun and empowering.

“There is a real sense of community in knowing that the choices that you make are embraced by others,” he said. “There is power in knowing whether you eat plant-based all the time or once a week, it can be done without feeling you have to deny yourself the most important aspect of food – flavor.”

Great Lakes Regional VegBash Plant Based Food Festival

4-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday

Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds

5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, Ann Arbor, 48103

Advanced tickets: $12 for adults; $11 seniors 65 and older; $7 for children 6-12; $13 at the door. All admissions receive a $5 food voucher to be used at participating vendors. 

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