At the end of 2019, I wrote a “Year in Review” piece brimming with optimism.
I noted then, that 2019 had been rough in a lot of ways (see: toxic tweets, resurgent anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, gun violence, eco-crisis, etc.) I noted, though, that really great things had been happening locally with Vegan CNY, and that all that good stuff gave me a hope for the things that could be.
I posted to that piece to the website feeling pretty good about myself. I told my family that 2020 was about to be the best year ever.
And… well, you know the rest.
Didn’t see that coming, did we?
Needless to say, there was no Syracuse Vegfest 2020. There was no Syracuse Vegfest 2021. That Food Share program that we had been so excited about came to a screeching halt, as did those fun happy hour Vegan After Work events in local bars and restaurants. Our plans to table Taste of Syracuse? Yeah, that got cancelled.
The amazing vegan Community (always with a capital “C” for me) that had been growing up in the Syracuse area was seriously strained in all sorts of ways.
It wasn’t fun or pretty.
But good stuff has a way of coming back up, calling for you attention.
In late 2021, a group of people got together and decided it was time to get back to it, to build Community, to spread the vegan message, to have some good old-fashioned compassionate fun.
A lot of hard work, a lot of fantastic support from the Community, and 2022 ended up being a great year in many, many ways.
2022 saw the return of Syracuse Vegfest!
This year the event was held in Clinton Square.
Vendors from all around the area came to sell vegan food, t-shirts, books, dog treats, crafts, and more. Local sanctuaries, rescues and other non-profits provided information, local musicians made beautiful noise, and our two speakers made the case for vegan living. Add in a touch of early morning yoga and food share demos with local produce and it was a pretty amazing day.
Strong Hearts Café, Fatcat Baking, Angel Hearts Café, Funk n Waffles, Razzle Dazzle, Nice Biscuit, Pie’s the Limit, Salt City Bread, Sweet Praxis, Aurora Café, Parlor City, Vegan Season… the list of food options goes on and on, and some of us made the probably-not-wise decision to try them ALL.
Eden Fresh Network and Fruit of the Fungi put on some pretty fantastic demos, headline speaker T. Colin Campbell was a hit, and people have been asking us to please bring back musicians Amanda Rogers and Edmond Ordez for next year.
We were even able to put together something we call VegBucks. At Vegan CNY, we want to make veganism accessible to all, which is part of the reason we have never charged for any event. But just “attending” an event isn’t always a lot of fun if you can’t truly participate. With VegBucks, we were able to provide homeless and food insecure individuals with vouchers for food from any vendor they chose at no cost to themselves. We hope to be able to do this each year going forward.
In all, close to 3000 people showed up for the event, which tells us that even after a couple of tough years, veganism is still very much alive in Central New York.
Way back before all the shutdowns and chaos of 2020, a group of volunteers got together once per month to pass out a free vegan lunch to homeless individuals under the bridge downtown.
For reasons that had nothing to do with COVID, we had to stop serving under that bridge, which caused the program to slow down (we found a temporary home with Café Sankofa). COVID came along and ended it entirely.
In March of 2022, we restarted the program in a new location.
Throughout 2022, volunteers gathered every other Saturday at the University United Methodist Church in Syracuse. The church allowed us to use their space to cook and to serve, and Vegan CNY volunteers dished up hot meals for 359 people over the course of the year. Think delicious stews, BBQ sandwiches, mac and cheez, curries, and more, boxed up and ready to go free of charge.
As of January 2023, we have actually increased our availability and will be serving weekly instead of twice per month.
OUT AND ABOUT
Part of the mission of Vegan CNY is to get the vegan message out to the masses, and so we were excited to have the opportunity to set up tables in a variety of venues this year.
We once again tabled the Westcott Cultural Fair. We had a blast tabling at OCC for a Salt City Roller Derby match. We loved tabling the Helping Hounds fundraiser and seeing all the awesome pups hanging out. We held three successful bake sales at Green Planet in Syracuse. And we tabled a paint and sip fund raiser at Pawsitivtea Cat Café.
While we haven’t been able to reignite the Vegan After Work meet ups quite yet, we were able to help get people together for a Family Picnic at Thornden Park in July. This, of course, is in addition to all those less formal, spur of the moment get togethers between various members and volunteers. We hope to see a lot more of this in the future.
THINGS TO COME
All in all, it was a good year for Vegan CNY and the local vegan movement in general.
2023 promises to bring more of the good stuff.
The 2023 Vegfest committee is already hard at work planning this year’s big event.
The Vegan Living Program will be returning to Syracuse this spring.
The Food Share is now being held weekly.
We have been talking with other local non-profits about ways we can work together on various projects, and we hope to see some of those discussions bearing fruit in the near future.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
Vegan CNY is about veganism, about living a life with as much compassion as possible.
It’s also about Community.
It’s pretty rare for great things to happen unless people are working together.
So we want to hear from you.
Vegan CNY is an entirely volunteer organization. The more volunteers the better (“many hands make light work”), so if you’re someone has been itching to get involved in some way, let us know. If you want to put in the work (and have fun doing it), then we want to work with you!
We also know that not everyone can commit to volunteering on a project. Whether it’s because of kids, a busy work schedule, or just the chaos of living in a weird world, not everyone can put in the time needed. And that’s okay. We want to hear from you, too. Reach out. Connect. Say hello. Join the Facebook group. Tell us what you’re all about.
And whether you’re a volunteer or too time-strapped to volunteer, we want to know what you want.
What would you like to see Vegan CNY doing in the future?
What great ideas have you been kicking around in your head, wishing you had the time or resources to bring to life? An all-vegan hockey team? A group trip to the Farm Sanctuary? A 100 mile vegan bike ride? A vegan moms support group? Cool t-shirt design? Open mic night? Let us know!
Vegan CNY PO Box 35641 Syracuse NY 13235