Brock ties grow stronger with Niagara VegFest

Niagara VegFest’s roots run deep with Brock University.

The popular plant-based celebration, set to take place this weekend, was created six years ago by two members of the Brock community, and the University has this year come on board as an official sponsor.

“The sponsorship is very significant to me personally, because Brock and VegFest really are my two homes,” said Laurie Morrison, Brock’s Interim Associate Librarian who co-founded the event alongside Associate Professor Keri Cronin in Brock’s Visual Arts department.

The event has grown into a weekend-long affair with the addition of a vegan wine tour, multi-course dinner and screening of documentary Eating You Alive on Saturday, June 3, for which tickets must be purchased in advance.

VegFest then takes over Market Square in downtown St. Catharines on Sunday, June 4 with a roster of renowned speakers, gourmet food, cooking demonstrations, live music and more than 80 vegan vendors and exhibitors. There will also be a variety of children’s activities and face painting for families to enjoy.

Niagara VegFest

Niagara VegFest is expected to draw thousands of people to St. Catharines Market Square on Sunday, June 4.

Brock is sponsoring the Sunday vendor hall and will have volunteers on site handing out packets of wildflower seeds.

The festival aims to educate people about what a plant-based diet is, offer steps to reduce your environmental footprint, and to highlight the impact a vegan diet can have on your health and the wellbeing of animals.

Laurie Morrison, Niagara VegFest co-founder and organizer, said that as one of Canada’s primary growing regions, having a festival of this nature “just made sense.”

Organizers knew they had “hit on something people were hungry for” when 1,300 curious minds showed up in the inaugural year and growth continued at each consecutive event.

“Some people who come are plant-based vegans, but really, the festival is for people who are thinking about changing their diet or trying to figure out what it’s all about,” Morrison said.

For many people, it’s not quite as easy as “flipping a switch” and undergoing a lifestyle transformation, she said, which is where the festival comes in.

VegFest offers helpful tips for progressing toward a vegan diet, including identifying replacement ingredients and modifying staple recipes.

While the event does come with a serious message about health, the welfare of animals and the environment, it looks to broach the subject in a fun way, Morrison said.

People often associate vegan diets with only cold salads and smoothies — a myth the festival is determined to dispel, she said.

VegFest offers many “comfort food” options — including this year’s version of a vegan Big Mac — that often catch diners by surprise.

“That’s the ‘aha!’ moment that people often have — when they try something that’s traditionally got animal products in it, like mac and cheese, but with no animal products,” Morrison said, while encouraging people to treat their palates and give some festival favourites a try.

“If your doctor has said you need to think about your diet and reducing your cholesterol, then this is the festival for you,” she said.

“You’ll find that you can stick to plant-based options and enjoy the food that you’re eating.”

Admission to Niagara VegFest, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 4, is by donation ($2 recommended).

For a full festival lineup or to sign up to volunteer, visit

Read more stories in: Faculty & staff, Humanities, News, People
Tagged with: , , ,