BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On September 14 to 16, the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC) will host its first ever Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest, with events to be held each day in different locations around Berkeley Heights. Through Vegan Fest, the BHEC hopes to raise community awareness about how a plant-based diet, mindful exercise, and individual food choices can have a positive impact on both environmental preservation and on personal health.

Vegan Fest will consist of three main eventspdf that are free and open to the public: (1) an evening of yoga and Tai Chi, (2) two educational panels focusing on health impacts and planet impacts, respectively, and (3) a Vegan Cook-off.

The first event, Evening Yoga and Tai Chi, runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, September 14, (rain date of Saturday, September 15, from 2 to 4 p.m.) at The Grove Park at the Connell Center, located on Connell Drive in Berkeley Heights between Lifetime Fitness and the new Embassy Suites hotel.  Beginning at 6 p.m., certified yoga instructor LeeAnn Gerrato, who is affiliated with Lifetime Fitness, will lead an hour-long yoga session in The Grove Park dias area.  Immediately thereafter at 7 p.m., certified Tai Chi instructor Don Madson, who is affiliated with the Berkeley Heights YMCA, will lead an hour-long Tai Chi session. Everyone of all ages – from novices to masters – are invited to attend.  Participants should arrive in comfortable, work-out clothing and should bring a filled water cannister.  Those attending the yoga session should also bring a yoga mat or towel with them. It is the BHEC’s hope that this event will encourage participants to engage in these or other practices that promote good physical health, while also awakening their focus on the mind-body-spirit connection.

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For the second event, two educational panels will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, September 15, at the Berkeley Heights Town Hall on Park Avenue in Berkeley Heights.  Each panel will run for approximately one hour.  The first panel, the “Health Focus Panel,” will focus on why a diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes good health.  Among others, the panelists will feature Mitch Bentler, an oncology nutritionist from Summit Medical Group, Lisa McQuilkin, the Wellness Director of the Berkeley Heights YMCA, and Sue Fieseler, the Director of Community Wellness of the Summit YMCA. The second panel, the “Planet Impacts Panel,” will focus on how a plant-based diet helps to promote environmental preservation. This panel will feature Gal Hochman, an associate professor from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics at Rutgers University, as well as Steve Fenster, the president of NJveg.org. 

The third and final event, the Vegan Cook-off, begins at 1 p.m. in Lower Columbia Park off Hamilton Avenue in Berkeley Heights, behind Columbia Middle School. Veganism includes a diet in which no animals or animal products (including eggs and dairy products) are used. This is an opportunity for everyone - vegans and non-vegans alike - to showcase their skills at creating vegan dishes that can taste delicious.  There will be two divisions – a restaurant division and a “general public” division.  Each division will feature three categories - (1) appetizer, (2) main course, and (3) dessert.  Prizes will be awarded to all winners.  Examples of some of the prizes – intended to appeal to a broad audience - include a full body massage from Sublime, dinner for two at Dimaio’s, and a $75 gift card from Whole Foods Market. Interested contestants must pre-register and enter their dish at www.goo.gl/YEQwUk. A blue-ribbon panel of judges, including Berkeley Heights Mayor Bob Woodruff, will determine the winning entries.  

To assist the community in getting into the Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest spirit, Special-Tees of Berkeley Heights is hosting an on-line store for this event, where short- and long-sleeve shirts bearing the event logo can be ordered.  The Juice House of New Providence will also be distributing samples during this event.

For more information about Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest, including details about each of the events above, 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.

To order a Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest t-shirt, which may be ordered in all sizes, please visit https://www.agpestores.com/akaincorporated/groupproducts.php.