Going vegetarian or vegan isn’t just a trend popular with teens and college students.
“Eating a healthy diet is a family function,” says LisaMarie Tersigni, president of the Albany Vegetarian Network.
And that’s the reason this year’s New York Capital Region Vegetarian Expo is aimed at all ages, from toddlers to grandmas and grandpas.
Scheduled this Saturday at the Empire State Convention Center, the Expo will feature a dozen speakers and more than 40 exhibitors offering information about green living, animal advocacy and vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. There will be live animal exhibits, food samples, book signings, a children’s corner and a drop-off site where visitors can recycle their old cellphones and ink cartridges.
This year’s speakers include Kelly Serbonich, a chef at Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca; Melanie Joy, author of “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows”; and David N. Borton, a solar energy professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“We will have several food demonstrations, and raw food demonstrations,” says Tersigni.
5th Annual New York Capital Region Vegetarian Expo
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Fashion show begins at noon.
WHERE: Empire State Convention Center, Albany
HOW MUCH: Free, but $5 donation is suggested
MORE INFO: 686-7486, www.albanyvegetariannetwork.org
Visitors can purchase servings of vegetarian “comfort food”: butternut squash, pumpkin bisque, veggie chili, rolls and grilled vegetable-tofu sandwiches.
New for this year is a nutritionist table and a holistic health counselor.
“People can come up and ask the experts,” says Tersigni.
“The purpose of the Expo is to educate the general public about the benefits of eating a vegetarian or vegan diet — those benefits being environmental, animal advocacy and healthy eating.”
Returning for a second year is a “cruelty-free” fashion show, with models wearing animal-friendly clothing and accessories, which means no leather, wool or fur.
“It is clothing that does not sacrifice an animal in any way,” says Tersigni.
Last year, all the models were young, “which brought a lot of energy into the Expo. . . . It brought in a younger crowd.”
Tersigni says that the 2011 theme is “the new face of vegetarianism, and the models range from age 11 to 70.”
Martha Cruden will walk the runway with her 12-year-old granddaughter, and Tersigni will model with her daughter and granddaughter.
“We will have several generations. Essentially, it’s to show the public what it feels and looks like to be a vegetarian,” she said.
Clothing and accessories will be provided by Herbivore Clothing of Portland, Ore.; Vaute Couture, an international animal-free clothing company; Mission Savvy of West Virginia; and Cow Jones Industrial Boutique in Chatham, Columbia County. Pure Elements Salon in Guilderland will be doing the models’ hair and makeup.
Cruden and her husband started eating vegan, which means avoiding all animal foods, including dairy, about four years ago after reading the book “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who promotes a plant-based diet.
Tersigni, who lives in Cohoes, adopted a vegetarian diet 20 years ago.
“It started after not feeling well after eating a meat-based diet.” She turned vegan about eight years ago. “I have a great compassion for the animal kingdom. And I’ve come to realize the true health benefits of eating a vegan diet.”
The Albany Vegetarian Network was founded by a group of friends who went to a vegetarian expo in Syracuse and were inspired to do a similar event in the Capital Region.
The group launched its first expo at the Saratoga Springs Convention Center, and moved the event to Albany last year.
“All of our participants are strictly volunteer, doing this in addition to their careers or jobs or other functions. It’s purely out of our heart,” said Tersigni.
“We want to educate the public and to be there for people who have questions. We let people make their own decisions.”
While the Vegetarian Expo is their biggest annual event, the AVN appears at other local events, such as Albany’s LarkFEST and the Animal Protective Foundation’s Fireplug 500 Walk in Schenectady.
The AVN will be an exhibitor at the Saratoga Healthy Living Expo on Nov. 20 at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs.
“Our mission statement is to promote compassionate ethics, to create a better world for people, animals and the planet,” said Tersigni.