The Improbable Success of the Texas Veggie Fair

Life is good when you're snacking on a vegan corn dog.
Life is good when you're snacking on a vegan corn dog.

It's pretty impressive if you think about it: Gathering 7,000 vegetarians and otherwise curious omnivores together to celebrate meat-free living might be hard enough, but to do it in Dallas? Texas is a land that celebrates steakhouses, where smoked beef brisket is its own food group, and where beans aren't beans until they've been whipped with lard.

Maybe -- maybe -- you could imagine some like-minded weirdos in Austin, but here in Dallas, most of us don't recognize vegetables unless they've been squeezed into juice. At least that's the prevailing wisdom.

But James Scott was sure there were other Dallasites who shared his plight. He'd grown tired of dining out only to find his only option was steamed vegetables or a baked potato, so he started Vegan Drinks, a website that brought together other vegans and then turned them loose on bars and restaurants. The idea was to show restaurateurs that vegan people actually existed, and that provided with the opportunity they might actually buy food. They got drunk, too, which is always good for business.

As the group grew, Scott dreamed up another way to grow his vegan community: He threw a party. Since attendants at the State Fair of Texas suffer the same meaty onslaught that Texas offers everywhere, Scott thought he should put together a festival of fried foods that appealed to his vegan friends. His first event had attendance in the hundreds and three food venders, but the Texas Veggie Fair has grown year after year since. Last year attendance crossed 7,000, and this year the event is expected to set another new record.

This will be the fifth-annual event, and the second held at Reverchon Park on Maple Avenue. Scott plans on having even more attendants than the year before, in part because he has more resources to market the event.

Vegan restaurants like Spiral Diner and a number of local food trucks will be slinging vegan chow. Guest speakers will pontificate on the finer points of vegetarianism and bands will keep the awkward silences to a minimum. Bonus for dog lovers: It's a canine-friendly event.

Also, there's beer. Initial events have been as dry as Texas clay, but last year marked the first that booze was allowed. Look for Franconia, Grapevine and other local brewers in the beer garden and then hunt down your first corn dog.

Texas Veggie Fair, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. October 19, 3505 Maple Ave., Reverchon Park.

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