By Aileen McGraw, VRG Intern
Armed with my pleather jacket, broken camera and twin sister, Keara, I register for Chicago’s first Veggie Pride Parade just in time to embark from Grant Park. Grabbing a nametag, I join the ranks of other “Hello, my name is” vegans, vegetarians and supporters of plant-based diets.
The Veggie Pride Parade’s inaugural year was 2001 in Paris. Since then, the parade has spread internationally with locations in New York and Ontario. June 2, 2012 marks the first annual Chicago Veggie Pride Parade (CVPP), sponsored by ChicagoVeg and other prominent Chicago vegan and vegetarian businesses and organizations.
“We are vegans. We are vegetarians. We are the change.” I begin the parade following this handwritten mantra. Passing vendor booths including those of The Original Soul Vegetarian and The Chicago Diner, I see some of what makes this city’s vegan community so vibrant. Chicago boasts vegan diners with roots in the 1980s, a hybrid soul food restaurant and raw juice bar. Chicago truly innovates wholly and sustainably.
Making the Columbus Drive to Roosevelt Road turn, I inevitably notice participants of the CVPP costume contest. With VeganMania’s Tofu Man leading the way, bananas, what I’ll call asparagus, and happy-to-be-alive farm animals pepper the crowd. The event’s soundtrack provides me with clips of conscious conversation. I hear one couple voice their opinions on corporate money as another marcher enthusiastically proclaims, “skip the middle cow!”
Continuing onto the main stretch of South Michigan Avenue, I hasten my pace as event coordinators ask us to parade “just a little bit quicker.” We fall slightly behind schedule while a No Meat Athlete takes pictures, seemingly undaunted. At route’s end, my sister and I separate from the crowd, most of who return to hear speakers including holistic health promoter Karyn Calbrese, activist and writer Marla Rose, and Marisa Buchheit, Miss Chicago 2012.
After a quick photo-op with Tofu Man, we depart. Still feeling veganly inspired, we take the Red Line train to the Belmont stop with one goal in mind: shakes. Cookie dough peanut butter shakes from The Chicago Diner, to be exact. Our own grand finale captures what I consider to be the success of Chicago’s Veggie Pride Parade premier. My sister, self-proclaimed meat and cheese enthusiast, downs a Temptation Vegan Ice Cream confection without reservation. She confesses recent interest in going more (or even full-fledged) vegan. Like the CVPP’s stated mission, today’s event is about encouraging “everyone, vegan or not, to come and walk, socialize, learn, and of course celebrate the Veg lifestyle with us.”