Festival Programming

Nathan Runkle at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2013
Nathan Runkle at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2013

Before you can really start the work of planning the festival, you need to figure out what attendees will do at your festival. This should all be based on your mission and strategy, of course.

We’ll assume that your mission is to introduce people to delicious vegan food and information about factory farming and veganism.

When considering what types of programming to offer, there are several questions to consider. First, will this programming draw in people who might otherwise skip the festival? Second, will this programming significantly further your mission? Third, does this programming add to the overall fun, welcoming, and educational atmosphere you’re aiming for?

Exhibitors and Food

The best way to introduce people to delicious vegan food is by having lots of exhibitors sampling and selling it! The heart of a Veg Fest is the exhibitor hall. Let’s assume that you plan to have one and move on.


Speakers can be a great way to give people more in-depth information about factory farming, vegan nutrition, and other related issues. Since omnivores are your target audience, we recommend that you ask speakers to give basic, introductory presentations suited to a general audience.

Speakers may draw some additional attendees, and they can definitely further your mission of educating attendees.

Cooking Demos

Cooking demos are a great way to teach people about new vegan foods they can prepare at home. Again, since omnivores are your target audience, we recommend keeping it simple. Ask the chefs doing demos to focus on easy-to-prepare dishes using relatively common recipes. We’re sure that raw chia seed, quinoa, and seaweed pie is delicious, but it probably won’t appeal to most omnivores.

Ideally, all the ingredients in the dishes that are demonstrated would be available at a regular grocery store.

Cooking demos, like speakers, may draw some additional attendees, and they definitely work well for education.


Our experience from both our own Twin Cities Veg Fest and others we’ve attended is that entertainment is not a very big draw. We’re not sure why, but our guess is that people just aren’t that into concerts held during the day. The exception might be if you can get a performer that’s an incredibly big draw, like a nationally recognized popular musician.

Assuming that you have enough space, you could recruit performers like jugglers or magicians who can work the crowd in the exhibit hall. This will certainly add some fun to the festival, but it probably won’t draw attendees who wouldn’t otherwise come.

That all said, entertainment definitely adds to the fun festival atmosphere, so you shouldn’t rule it out entirely.

Kids Area

This is unlikely to draw many additional attendees, but it does add to the festival atmosphere. It can also be done without expending too much effort, money, or volunteer time. You can offer games, coloring books, and other activities like a story time pretty easily.

Pick One

For your first festival, we strongly recommend that you just focus on the exhibitor hall and speakers. Cooking demos are great but they are logistically more complicated than speakers because of equipment needs, permits, etc. Entertainment is nice to have if you can do it easily, but don’t get too distracted by this. The same goes for a kids area.

Once you have one festival under your belt, you can experiment with adding additional types of programming and seeing how attendees respond.