In a summer filled with ribs and brats and assorted meats grilled on the back deck, the 12th annual Veggie Fest stands out like a cherry tomato in a bowl of lettuce.
To say the annual weekend celebration, which runs through Sunday at Benedictine University in Lisle, is different from most fests is like saying a carrot isn't exactly a corn dog.
And that's just the way organizers planned it, event coordinator Jonathan Kruger says.
The fest, which usually draws about 40,000 visitors, stresses healthy eating not only for vegetarians and vegans, but also for those who don't turn away from a T-bone.
"Veggie Fest wasn't created (just) for vegetarians," Kruger said in the days leading up to the party. "It was created so people can learn about good food and healthy living."
But if some folks who attend want to change their minds about what and how they eat, he said, "We have a learn-to-be-a-vegetarian tent."
The fest features a variety of vegetarian food booths along with music, games, cooking demonstrations and guest speakers outlining what they say are the advantages of their lifestyle.
Visitors also are encouraged to take the "Vegetarian Challenge," where they pledge to eat a vegetarian diet for two weeks to see if it makes a difference. In the past few years, Kruger said, roughly 15,000 people have signed up.
The celebration continues from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sunday at Benedictine, 5700 College Road, Lisle. Admission and parking are free.
For a complete schedule of events, visit veggiefestchicago.com.