BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Next week, from Sept. 20 – 22, the three-day-long Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest will occur in different locations around town for a second year.  Co-produced by the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC) and Sustainable Berkeley Heights (SustainableBH), Vegan Fest is free and open to the public.  The goal is to assist members of the community and others to better understand how mindfulness in shifting to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, combined with mindful exercise, can help promote a healthier life, as well as have a positive impact on the environment. To encourage attendance, the BHEC and SustainableBH will be giving away prizes to attendees.

Intended to appeal to people of all ages, as well as to vegans and non-vegans alike, there will be three events:  (1) yoga at sunset, (2) educational panels and a children’s energized, creative dance session, and (3) the Vegan Cook-Off.  

The first event, Yoga at Sunset, will take place on Friday, September 20 from 6 – 8 p.m. in The Grove Park at the Connell Center, located at 200 Connell Drive in Berkeley Heights between the Embassy Suites Hotel and Lifetime Fitness.  Certified yoga instructors LeeAnn Gerrato and Crystal Maldonado will each teach an hour-long session.  Both sessions are geared to people of all skill levels, so that everyone from novices to experts will be able to participate.  Gerrato and Maldonado are both affiliated with Lifetime Fitness.  The event is aimed at encouraging people to become healthier by adopt a regular mindfulness practice and to incorporate regular exercise into their daily routine.

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The second event, Educational Panels and Children’s Energized, Creative Dance, will take place on Saturday, September 21 and will run from 10 a.m. to noon in Lower Columbia Park, 411 Plainfield Avenue, behind Columbia Middle School.  Local experts Mitch Bentler, a Summit Medical Group oncology nutritionist, as well as the YMCA’s Wellness Director, Lisa McQuilkin, will participate on a “Health Focus” panel.  Other experts, such as Lee Hall, an attorney who has conducted sustainability research for the Encyclopedia of UN Sustainability Goals, will participate on a “Planet Impacts” panel that will discuss how a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables can promote better health while also promoting environmental preservation.

The final Vegan Fest event is the Vegan Cook-Off, which will be held on Sunday, September 22 and will run from 1 – 3 p.m. in Lower Columbia Park.  Vegans and non-vegans alike are encouraged to participate.  To promote the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, samples of vegan food will be available.  Those interested can sign up prior to the event to enter their best vegan dish in the Vegan Cook-Off, in three categories:  (1) appetizer, (2) main course, and (3) dessert.  Prizes, including trophies and gifts from local vendors, will be presented to the top three winners in each category.  All participants must pre-register and enter their dish at bit.ly/BHVF2019 , as no “day of” entries will be accepted.  A blue ribbon panel of judges will determine the winners in each category.  

For additional information, FAQs, directions to events, rain date information, and other helpful facts, please visit the event websites, at: www.berkeleyheights.gov/387/Vegan-Fest ANDwww.SustainableBH.org