BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The first ever Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest begins this week, running from Friday, Sept. 14 – Sunday, Sept. 16.  Vegan Fest will feature yoga and Tai Chi sessions, educational panels, and a Vegan Cook-off.pdf With these varied, free event offerings, the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC), as event sponsor, invites everyone in the community - no matter what age, state of physical fitness, or current diet - to attend the event(s) that are right for them.

Through Vegan Fest, the BHEC hopes to engage Berkeley Heights residents and raise awareness about how a plant-based diet, mindful exercise, and informed individual food choices can positively impact personal health, as well as environmental preservation.

“I’m super excited,” said King El, Founder of La Vodega Market in Hoboken and one of the five Vegan Cook-off judges.  “I have a feeling [Vegan Fest] is going to be a great event.”

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Event #1 – Yoga and Tai Chi, Friday, Sept. 14 @ 6 p.m., Grove Park on Connell Drive at the Connell Center (Rain Date:  Sat., Sept. 15 @ 2 p.m.)

If you haven’t been to one of Berkeley Heights’ newest parks and have always wanted to try out yoga or Tai Chi, you’re in luck.  Bring a beach towel and/or a yoga mat, as well as a filled water cannister, and join us for an hour-long, pre-sunset yoga session taught by certified yoga instructor LeeAnn Gerrato, beginning at 6 p.m.  Immediately thereafter, as the sun sets, join us for a Tai Chi session taught by certified Tai Chi instructor Don Madson. Please wear comfortable clothes. Everyone from novices to masters is invited to attend.

Event #2 – Educational Panels, Saturday, Sept. 15 @ 10 a.m., Town Hall, 29 Park Ave.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the “Health Focus Panel” will discuss how the incorporation of fitness into one’s lifestyle can improve overall wellness and health, no matter what age, as well as why eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes good health.  Speakers from this first panel will include wellness experts from the YMCA, as well as an oncology nutritionist from Summit Medical Group. At 11 a.m., the “Planet Impacts Panel” will discuss how a plant-based diet helps promote environmental preservation. Speakers will include an associate professor from Rutgers University’s Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics and the president of NJveg.org.

Event #3 - Vegan Cook-off, Sunday, Sept. 16 @ 1 p.m., Lower Columbia Park

The Vegan Cook-off on Sunday, Sept. 16 is perfect for those who love to bake, grill, or otherwise cook, or for those who just love competition and winning fabulous prizes.  This event, to be held at Lower Columbia Park (off Hamilton Avenue, behind Columbia Middle School), will begin at 1 p.m., rain or shine. With both a “restaurant” and a “general public” division, vegans and non-vegans alike have the opportunity to show off their culinary skills by entering their tastiest vegan dishes in this contest.  First, second, and third place winners will be selected in both divisions, in each of three categories - (1) appetizer, (2) main course, and (3) dessert. To showcase local vendors, promote the final day of Restaurant Week, and to highlight the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection in overall health and wellness, the BHEC will be presenting winners as well as others with gifts from local establishments.  Examples of these gifts include: Sublime – Full body massage; Massage Envy – 60 minute message, facial, or total body stretch; Skin Deep – Signature European facial; European Wax – Complimentary lip waxing, face exfoliant, and calming cream; Lululemon – Yoga mat; Whole Foods Market - $75 gift card; Dimaio Cucina* – Dinner for two; Hacienda Grill* - $25 gift certificate; Sterling Hallmark Shops - $25 gift certificate; Nail It Spa – Manicure, pedicure; ans Soho Nail – Manicure, pedicure. (*Participating in Restaurant Week.)

To ensure “ingredient compliance” with the General Guidelines below, those interested in submitting entries must pre-register and enter their dish (and its ingredients) at bit.ly/BHVF2018.

General Guidelines for Vegan Cook-off Entries – All dishes must be vegan.

• No Animal Parts or Things Made from Animals

Examples:  • Beef • Portk • Chicken • Turkey • Other Fowl of Any Kind • Fish • Shellfish • Broth, Stock, Bacon, Sausage, Burgers, or Hot Dogs made from any of the above items

• No Dairy or Other Products from Animals

Examples: • Milk • Cheese • Non-Vegan Yogurt • Cream of Any Kind (Sour Cream, Heavy Cream, etc.) • Butter • Eggs • Lard

For additional information, FAQs, directions to events, and additional information, please visit the BHEC’s Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/BerkeleyHeightsEnvironmentalCommission/, or go to the jump link on the BHEC town website, http://www.berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/EC/index.html.