Small bites: Fourth Asheville VeganFest brings new events

MUSIC NOT MEAT: This year's Asheville VeganFest will include two benefit shows. Antibalas, featured here on their 2012 self-titled album cover, is a Brooklyn-based, Afrobeat, jazz and funk band. The group will headline the Saturday evening event. Photo courtesy of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue

When it first launched in 2015, Asheville VeganFest was a single-day event. But over the last three years, as the gathering has continued to grow in popularity, so too has its footprint and offerings expanded. Now entering its fourth year, the celebration will span three days, Friday-Sunday, June 8-10.

A majority of the events are free to attend, but for the first time, the festival will offer two ticketed shows at The Orange Peel. Proceeds from both performances will benefit the festival’s organizer, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter.

“It’s really a celebration of compassionate living,” says Caitlin Campbell, Brother Wolf’s community outreach manager. The festival, she adds, is a way “to help educate and inspire people around issues surrounding veganism, animal rights, healthy living and sustainability.”

Free panel discussions and presentations comprise a majority of the schedule. Vegan experts and advocates from around the region, country and world will convene onstage at The Orange Peel to address topics that range from nutrition and diet to spirituality and youth activism. Plant restaurant will be on-site vending breakfast and lunch options as well.

The benefit shows are set for Friday and Saturday night, with both evenings featuring comedian Lee Camp and hip-hop/activist Grey. Friday night’s show will also include Debrissa & Austn, a hip-hop jazz activist fusion. Saturday’s closing act will be Antibalas, an Afrobeat, jazz and funk band.

On Sunday, there will be a market at Pack Square Park featuring over 75 food, beer, clothing, advocacy and lifestyle vendors. Last year’s celebration had an estimated turnout of 8,500 people.

Campbell says the festival is a chance to connect people of all ages. Her particular interest is to provide young vegans a place where they can meet and feel empowered. It also offers curious carnivores insight on nonmeat options.

“We have a really amazing selection of experts from around the country at the community’s fingertips for one weekend in June,” she says. “We encourage people to come out and have conversations and just enjoy themselves.”

The Asheville VeganFest runs Friday-Sunday, June 8-10, at The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave., and Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. For specific times and locations as well as ticket information, visit

ALOHA from the Swannanoa

MANNA FoodBank will host ALOHA from the Swannanoa, the hunger-relief organization’s 19th annual Blue Jean Ball. The evening will feature food from over 20 local restaurants, including Rezaz, Ambrozia, Posana, Corner Kitchen and Chestnut, with dishes including a whole roasted kalua pig, beer-barbecued shrimp and seared mahi-mahi. The event will also include live music and drinks. “The average life span of a successful fundraising event is 10 years,” says Alisa Hixson, MANNA’s director of corporate engagement and signature events. “As we approach the 19th annual Blue Jean Ball, it underscores the event’s deep support from the community, which continues to grow, not only in funds raised but the caliber of the culinary offerings.”

ALOHA from the Swannanoa runs 7-11 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at MANNA FoodBank, 627 Swannanoa River Road. Tickets are $95. All proceeds benefit MANNA FoodBank. For tickets, visit

Ruth’s Chris Patio kickoff party

Ruth’s Chris Steak House will celebrate the beginning of the warm-weather season on Saturday, June 2, with its annual patio kickoff party featuring live music, games, food and beverages. Chef Pete Repak will prepare $9 grilled skewers with selections that include prime beef tenderloin with Creole spice rub, curry chicken with roasted pineapple, chili-garlic shrimp and peppers, and summer pesto veggies.

The party runs 4:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 26 All Souls Crescent. No reservations are required. For more, call 828-398-6200. 

Mini-Vegfest launches in Flat Rock

UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, Mini-Vegfest will be postponed. A new date has not been set, but the event’s co-organizer Lisa McDonald says it will likely take place in mid-July. Additional information to follow.

Sweet Bear Rescue Farm and the Asheville Vegan Society will team up to host the inaugural Mini-Vegfest on Sunday, June 3. The Hop Ice Creamery, Campfire Bakery, Fat Rabbit Catering and Garlik Vegan Café are among the participating food vendors. Musical performances, presentations by leading culinary and lifestyle experts, and a raffle will also take place. Tickets are $25. VIP tickets are $50 and include a tour of the sanctuary, a yoga session, access to the property’s swimming pool, two tickets for the raffle and a free beer for those 21 and older. All proceeds will benefit Sweet Bear Rescue Farm, a nonprofit animal shelter, as well as Asheville VegFest, which takes place at Pack Square Sunday, Sept. 2.

Mini-Vegfest runs 2-5 p.m. Sunday, June 3. The event’s location will be given upon ticket purchase. To learn more, visit

The Black Jar Honey Tasting

On Tuesday, June 5, dozens of honeys from around the world will be available to sample at the annual Black Jar Honey Tasting event. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will also be served. The event accompanies the annual International Black Jar Honey Contest, which enlists a panel of local judges to evaluate local, regional, national and international entries in a blind tasting. Proceeds benefit the Center for Honeybee Research, an Asheville-based nonprofit dedicated to citizen science, pollinator research and finding solutions to protect bees and the environment.

The Black Jar Honey Tasting runs 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, 31 Woodfin St. Tickets range from $35-$50. For more information, visit

The Southern Kitchen and Bar closed

The Southern Kitchen and Bar closed on Sunday, May 20. Joel Hartzler opened the restaurant in 2010, and in September 2016, sold it to George Hempenstall of Knoxville, Tenn. The eatery, known for its bloody marys and Yatch Rock Brunch, was popular among locals and tourists alike. A press release from the owners stated that the business closed  due to “external issues” and expressed appreciation for the love and support of customers and hard work and dedication of staff. “The Southern was not just a business, it was a family,” the statement says. “We will miss this community more than words can say.”


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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One thought on “Small bites: Fourth Asheville VeganFest brings new events

  1. boatrocker

    How do you spot a vegan at a dinner party?
    Don’t worry, they’ll let everyone know.

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