Concert Crowd

Veggie-Friendly Festival Food: Does it Exist?

Fact: Music festivals and live events are not always veggie-friendly environments.

Case in point: A few years ago, I went to Warped Tour in Calgary, Canada. Bags were checked at the entrance and any food or drink confiscated. Slightly annoying but pretty standard, I suppose.

I wasn’t too worried that they’d confiscated my muesli bars and apples as figured I would be fine at Warped; the punk rock scene tends to attract a lot of vegetarians and vegans (or perhaps it’s the other way around?) and PETA stands with ‘I am not a nugget’ paraphernalia always make an appearance; so reasonably, I thought there would be veggie-friendly food available.

I thought wrong.

The food stand at Warped sold hot dogs, sausage rolls and various burgers – beef, chicken, fish etc. but no veggie burgers.  No veggie anything, in fact. They didn’t even sell fries. What kind of organised event doesn’t sell fries?!

So the way the food stand worked was that punters purchased a bunch of food tickets and then exchanged these at the stand (two tickets for a drink, three for a burger etc). I barely used my tickets. The only vegetarian food available was packets of crisps and lemonade ice blocks. Seriously. At an all-day event, that was it.

Warped Tour ’08: Vegetarians Not Welcome

Thinking I was being resourceful, I took my tickets over to the burger lady and I asked if I could get a ‘burger’ without the actual patty. The buns that were being prepared in high volume behind her had cheese, lettuce and tomato in them and a ‘salad’ sandwich was better than air. Burger Lady said no. I calmly explained that I was willing to give her enough tickets to cover a complete burger, I just didn’t want the meat in mine. Burger Lady said no. I not-so-calmly ranted explained that I was a vegetarian and there was nothing else I could eat at this 12-hour festival but still Burger Lady said no.

Why? I don’t really know. I wasn’t rude or obnoxious, I was just trying to get some sustenance. Her reason was something along the line of it just wasn’t the way it worked and she couldn’t take a bun out of the ‘production line’. Sorry… what?!

So, all I consumed that day was two packets of ready salted crisps, a lemonade ice block, and countless bottles of water (at least there was a water tap, so I didn’t have to buy my H2O). Needless to say, I didn’t jump up and down or thrash around in the mosh pit when my favourite bands graced the stage; I sat on the ground, praying I wouldn’t pass out and miss them. Did I mention it was a 30 degree day? Hell.

Back home in Aus, there isn’t always a whole lot of choice for us vegos but often you can take in your own food to events so I go prepared with a mini veggie picnic and everywhere sells at least fries or potato wedges and often fatty crap delicious offerings like pizza or cheese sandwiches. To be honest, at times like this I am not fussy, I am just grateful to be able to eat.

But moving on to the UK… REST OF THE WORLD, TAKE NOTE! In my experience, festivals and outdoor events in the UK don’t just offer measly fries or a veggie burger, they have whole vegetarian and vegan food stalls. Yes, entire stalls without a hot dog or beef patty in sight!

Reading Festival, being that it was so huge, had at least five or six vegetarian specialty stands selling everything from burgers to nachos to falafel to Indian curry. Mmm… You were also allowed to bring in as much of your own food as you wanted. Given that we were camping on site for three nights, it was a god-send that my veggie friend and I didn’t have to live on fries the whole time.

Delicious healthy food… and pizza! (Yes, that’s my friend getting excited about falafel.)

More recently, I attended Slam Dunk Festival, which was held at Herts Uni. As the event was on campus, there were not only pop-up food vendors but also the Uni’s on-site cafeteria… featuring a Starbucks! Amazing. Never thought I’d be able to get a Grande Skinny Caramel Coffee Frappuccino (no whip) at a festival! For lunch I had an Indian potato curry complete with papadums from the café and my festival buddy had a veggie burger (yes, he was boring).

Moving on from music festivals, the inspiration for this post actually came from my experiences last week at London Live in Hyde Park, the (free!) outdoor screenings of Olympic events, featuring live music and a range of outdoor activities. You couldn’t take food or drink in but along the sides of the arena was an array of different food stalls from burger bars to noodle bars, from hot dog stands to pizza stands… you name it, they had it.

Most of these vendors (save the hot dog stand) had at least one vegetarian option but huddled in between all of these were two vegetarian only stands. Hoorah! Now, I could easily have eaten a Halloumi wrap from the kebab man or a veggie curry from the Thai guy but I wanted to support the stands that offered completely meat-free cuisine. No meat juice on their tongs or gristle on their grills!

It’s good to be green!

The first night I went I indulged in a spicy Mexican vegan burger from the stand that sold three varieties of vegan burgers along with falafel wraps. Yum! Night Two I couldn’t go past the black bean nachos from the Mexican-inspired veggie stand after suffering from a severe case of guacamole envy.

It was better than it looks, I swear!

Judging by the sizeable queues at both of these vendors, I am clearly not the only one looking for meat-free food at these events! So please event organisers of the world, when booking food vendors remember that not everyone wants to eat animals.

And that no one can survive on just ready salted crisps and lemonade ice blocks.

Thank you, GB. Thank you.
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21 thoughts on “Veggie-Friendly Festival Food: Does it Exist?

  1. I’ve been caught without food way too many times. It’s becoming more common in the US to have veggie-freindly options, but it’s still a challenge. I usually plead food allergy (I am gluten intolerant) so that they let me bring in my own food. Impressively, Atlanta’s baseball stadium now offers veggie options at every venue:)

    1. I must try the ‘food allergy’ line next time I run into trouble! I just wish people would be a little less closed-minded about dietary requirements and preferences. Silly Burger Lady.

      And that’s awesome – hope the rest of the U.S. follow’s Atlanta Baseball Stadium’s lead. ;-)

    1. I hope so too! And Canadian ones. Haha!

      She is, isn’t she?! I remember that morning we had got dressed separately then both emerged in black dresses with purple/blue tights. We’re so awesome. :-P

    1. I know – I have been pleasantly surprised at each one I’ve been to! And I’m going to Warped Tour in London at the end of the year and hoping it treats me better than it’s Canadian counterpart. ;-)

  2. I am disappointed that this happened in Calgary, but not suprised, it is a very meatcentric city! Most places here are very accomodating though to us vegeterians when we request a meat free option.

    1. I know, I don’t understand why the burger lady was so mean! I lived in Canada for just under a year and never had any other major problems. That said, the only other festival-type event I went to was the Calgary Stampede. I can’t recall what I ate there (so must not have struggled) but I do remember the ‘Pizza on a Stick’ stands everywhere! Brilliant.

  3. You should come to festivals in New Zealand! Most of the food at our festivals are vegetarian and they’re not rabbit food either. I guess vegetarian food is a lot safer to feed many people quickly. Cheaper too!

  4. The “Delicious Healthy Food” stall was at Leeds Festival in 2011, but not in 2012. Hence, there was no Vegetarian specialist outlet at all for the 75,000+ punters at Reading’s twin this year. Disappointing!

    1. What?! That is SO disappointing! There were several different veg stalls last year and they always had loads of people buying from them, so you think the organisers would realise that they were on to something! Hope my fellow vegos didn’t struggle too much. =/

      1. Struggle – yes. The free breakfast was sausage, bacon or egg. Several stalls had vegetarian options, but vegans had little choice. The main annoyance was that the Veggie Planet stall had gone to Reading this year (rather than Leeds last year) providing lots of choice in the south and none in the north.

      2. That sounds ridiculous – sorry you had such bad luck! I guess I always assumed both festivals would have the same vendors. Fingers crossed they sort themselves out for next year!

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