It was a big effort, involving nearly 50 families, a fair for vegetarian fun. There were balloons, free food, health advisers, literature, videos, music, and a happy crowd. There were results too -- some people quit or cut down eating meat right on that day. Long live Vegetarianism!!
As a part of the North American Vegetarian Society's "World Vegetarian Day" celebration on October 1 and Federation of Jain Associations in North America's "Ahimsa Day" celebration on October 4, we celebrated a combined Vegetarian/Ahimsa Day on October 2 in San Diego, with an educational "Vegetarian Fair", on Saturday, October 3. We feel very pleased to report that both went very well and that the fair was well attended by many Indian and far more non-Indian families.
First of all, we got a formal proclamation signed by San Diego's Mayor Maureen O'Connor for October 2, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, as "Vegetarian/Ahimsa Day". In addition, we received nice publicity for the fair on two television stations, channels 8 and 51. Several school districts, some hospitals, and restaurants also honored the day by serving meatfree dishes on Friday, October 2. Many related organizations also joined us.
In the fair, we had booths for representatives from American Cancer Society, California Dietetic Association, and San Diego County Health Education Department, all focusing on the value of vegetarian diets. They brought posters, stickers, books, and even an educational game! We also had two other separate booths for large posters; one for flyers and one for reference materials (cookbooks, periodicals, and movies). Most of these came from Vegetarian Resource Group, Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, and American Heart Association.
Then of course, we had cooking demonstrations and food-tasting. We had ongoing shows on how to cook Indian chhole from garbanzo bean cans, and sabji from frozen mixed vegetables.
For meat-taste loving persons, we showed how to prepare hamburgers with soya patty grillers available in the supermarkets and served them for free. We were pleased to notice that people appreciated all these items. Our menu was balanced with whole wheat pita bread, raitu, rice, and eggless cake. Finally, we also took the same food to feed at least 300 homeless individuals in downtown San Diego.
We created a fair atmosphere with balloons, a clown painting innocent animal pictures on children's faces, and nice soft background music. We had an essay competition, in which many youngsters participated. Three judges from Escondido School District, S.D. Health Department, and American Cancer Society were appointed to announce the prize winning essays. Winners were awarded prizes of $51 and $25 in each of two age groups. All the other participants were given coupons for dinner at Govinda's at the Beach. Each participant also was given an additional surprise gift, a 14 karat goldplated bracelet for girls, and a mind boggler game for boys.
We also honored Gandhiji, with an exhibition of a collection of pictures on his life.
Finally, we had a room where we showed the movie, "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise". Many people sat down there to eat the food, while enjoying the video show on the vegetarian way of life penetrating the mainstream America.
Our feedback is very encouraging. One attendee told us of his choice to quit eating meat immediately. Another family told us that from now on they will cut down cooking meat in every other day. Recognizing the fact that not everyone decides and speaks of such things right away, we feel comfortable in thinking that many more such decisions may come about as a result of the fair. This is the most gratifying part of the whole effort.
Many large cash donations were received from several individuals. In addition, several American businesses, such as supermarkets Lucky and Ralphs, also sponsored us by giving free groceries and supplies. Nearly 50 families were involved mentally, physically, and/or financially in carrying out the whole program.