One of Dallas' longest running foodie festivals is canceling indefinitely: Texas Veggie Fair, an annual festival featuring vegan/plant-based vendors, is pulling the plug after 10 years.
Established in Dallas in 2010, the event was the largest, longest-running VegFest in Texas.
But organizers decided that the event, which was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, had reached a point where moving forward would require untenable changes.
"The COVID-19 pandemic made the decision to cancel in 2020 an easy one, but those same questions about the future persisted into 2021," said founder James Scott.
The cancellation comes, ironically, right as the vegan market advances towards world domination, valued at $14.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $31.4 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research. It's a dramatic change from 2010, when finding vegan anything was somewhat of a challenge. Having one event such as the Veggie Fair with offerings from local and national vendors was a revelation.
The Veggie Fair experienced exponential growth during its decade-long tenure, from its early days in a parking lot near I-30 to its final iteration in 2019 at Dallas Farmers Market where it drew more than 12,000 attendees with its combination of veggie foods, local and national speakers, vendors, games, and live music.
Two factors key to its success were also liabilities: #1 It was put on by an all-volunteer staff and #2 it was free to get in.
"The reality is that our ability to raise the funds through sponsorship and vendor fees has not kept pace with the continually rising costs of organizing an event in the way we think it should be done," Scott said. "We understand that many would be willing to pay to attend, but charging for entry makes it a different kind of event."
Scott said that running a free event was particularly challenging.
"To do it right, by following all of the rules and regulations for official events in the city, makes it extremely difficult for free events," he said. "Furthermore, there are few suitable locations for an large events such as this."
And yet having it be free for all was part of the DNA.
"The approachability of a free event for veg-curious people and families is what allowed our event to be well attended by non-vegan people, something that would be missing if a fee was ever involved," he said.
As with any nonprofit/volunteer effort, there was a significant case of burnout. But despite the volunteer staff, the event was executed with polish and professionalism, guaranteeing return attendance year after year.
Following the debut of Texas Veggie Fair, two other veg fests in Texas were founded in 2011 — VegFest Houston and Texas VegFest in Austin — although both smaller in size; both have also been on hold since 2019.
The fair also gave Dallas' vegan scene some serious momentum, helping to establish that such a market existed in the stereotypical steakhouse capital, and providing a platform and audience for restaurants and entrepreneurs. It also drew attendees from across Texas and outside of the state as well.
"While the world is not vegan (yet), the progress that has been made since our first event in 2010 has been inspiring," Scott said.