We Planted the Seeds...
The First-Ever Veg Fest in Southwest Florida occurred in January 2017 at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. Although the weather in the morning was cold and rainy, we had 8-10,000 attendees visit our booths. In year two, we skyrocketed to 15-18,000!
From its inception, SWFL Veg Fest has been a team effort. The core team formed quickly and has extraordinary talent. This group demonstrates what a small group of passionate people can do!
We are grateful to the many other volunteers who help with planning and event day activities and made the fest what it is. Do YOU want to volunteer for SWFL Veg Fest? Volunteer signup will be available online soon!
We look forward to growing our fest in year two:
Sunday, February 16, 2020 – Riverside Park in Bonita Springs, Florida
Mike Young is the Founder of our SWFL Veg Fest, aPlantBasedDiet.org 501(c)(3) Non-Profit, TriangleGrapeVine.org, FloridaGrapeVine.org, and Director of Pod Operations at PlantPure. He’s the type of person that’s continually in search of improvement and doing the best he can do with everything. Mike has always been a forward thinker, and this has propelled him into leading a whole foods plant based lifestyle. He believes there’s nothing more important to do today than spread the good news of this lifestyle since everyone and everything benefits! Mike can be found perpetually on social media.
Mary Ann Parsons – SWFL Veg Fest Speaker Coordinator. Mary Ann is the co-founder of SWFL Veg Fest in 2017, and has been the Project Manager for the past 3 Fests. Before retirement, Mary Ann was a Manager at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, has a degree in teaching and an MBA. She is currently a Lee County Master Gardener and teaches the University of Florida’s program “Florida Yards & Neighborhoods” – environmentally friendly landscaping. She founded the group “SWAG” (Safe Water Advocacy Group) which is working with the City of Cape Coral, Florida. She is a certified instructor for CHIP – Complete Health Improvement program She promotes veg*ism for human health, for the planet, and because it’s one of the most effective ways to help animals.
Dr. Sal, Veg Fest Speaker Coordinator, is a specialist in Internal Medicine since 1993 with a passion for preventive health care. He is currently completing a fellowship in Anti-Aging with the Metabolic Medical Institute with an emphasis on Lifestyle management as a way to keep people healthy. In addition to his work as the Medical Director for the Wellness Centers and the Employee Health department at Lee Memorial Health System, he provides education to the community through lectures about preventive health care and shares his knowledge of simple and effective ways to age gracefully and healthfully.
Kara Cave is a member of the Core Planning Team and Coordinator for Venue, Website, and Branding for the SWFL Veg Fest. Although raised in meat-centric Texas, she became a vegan convert – after a short stint as vegetarian – with her husband in 2013. Their transition was prompted by both health and humane reasons, and they’ve been thrilled with the changes they’ve seen in their physical and mental well-being. Kara has a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University, and spent 5 years working in the environmental field. She currently holds an administrative position at Natural Awakenings Publishing Corp, both for the national office and local magazine. Kara also dedicates much of her free time to her passion for dance, and has been teaching and performing bellydance for over 10 years.
Donna Bradish, Veg Fest Volunteer Coordinator, was the Director of Volunteer Resources and Auxiliary Development for Lee Memorial Health System (LMHS) for 22 years before retiring in January 2015. Three years ago, prior to her retirement, Donna was chosen to participate in the Complete Health Improvement Program (lovingly referred to as CHIP) offered to Lee Memorial Health System employees. CHIP is an affordable lifestyle enrichment program designed to reduce disease risk factors through the adoption of better health habits and appropriate lifestyle modifications. As a result of her participation in this program and the health benefits she has gained, Donna became a CHIP facilitator for LMHS, providing the program to other LMHS employees. Living in Cape Coral with her husband, Joe, Donna enjoys reading, traveling, playing pickleball, promoting plant-based eating and spending time with her four grandchildren.
Kathy Reynaert Randall At 30 years of age, Kathy Reynaert Randall embraced the principles of plant-based nutrition and raised six healthy children according to those principles. As the Complete Health Improvement Program’s State of Florida Area Developer (CHIP) and as a Food for Life instructor, she has seen a reduced need for medication, improved blood work results, and a heightened sense of well-being in students who fully embrace the principles of this plant-based lifestyle. Those are only a few of the exciting accomplishments she has made in educating and encouraging people to lead a plant strong lifestyle. She is one of the most passionate promoters of this lifestyle and uses every chance she can to engage with the community to enhance their health and whole-person wellness.
Mark Blust, Sponsor Coordinator, is the V.P. of Operations and Marketing for the Prawnbroker Restaurant Group. Self-proclaimed as PMAV (Pretty Much a Vegan) Mark is a Plant Based advocate for “Food as Medicine” He is a frequent Facebook poster of homemade vegan recipes and tips with a desire to someday become certified in nutrition and wellness. Mark is intimately involved with organizations and activities that recognize and preserve our special ecosystems and outdoor treasures as well as local charities that work to help the underprivileged in our area. In his spare time, Mark is a cyclist and triathlon competitor, he enjoys cooking, a good book by the pool and is active in the community promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Graphics, Branding, and Web Design: Melissa Morris, CEO of Stormy Sea Studio, is a designer, illustrator, photographer and artist with a passion for travel and adventure. She brings a wealth of experience to every project having worked in numerous industries… everything from music and theatre to professional sports and construction. Translating abstract ideas into a visual story, Melissa is a creative problem-solver, involved in all aspects of her clients’ visual and social identities, creating and honing their brand identity.
Daniela Habermehl is a native of Fort Myers, FL. Although she was involved in 4-H as a child and lived on a farm growing up, she didn’t find her way to Veganism and animal welfare until about 2013. Throughout the last several years she has immersed herself into many types of animal activism & welfare activities and has been on several Animal Rescue missions after natural disasters around the country. On top of holding a professional full time career she has now launched her own farm animal sanctuary and continues to support the animal welfare causes she believes in around the world.
Gina Skaronea, Volunteer Manager, is currently an outpatient registered dietitian for Lee Health with a master’s in Public Health from Loma Linda University. After being convinced by one of her co-workers she embarked on her WFPB journey including interning with the CHIP and Food For Life programs as part of her graduate school practicum. She is able to share her passion for WFPB nutrition with her patients to empower them to make lifestyle changes that will prevent, reverse, or manage chronic disease. As Dr. Gregor says it best, “Plants are the best Medicine”. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with husband at the beach, creating new recipes, and visiting her friends and family in the Midwest.
Brad Talbott is Musical Coordinator for Veg Fest 2019. An avid musician and Fort Myers Organizer for the international Anonymous for the Voiceless movement. Brad has helped organize public art demonstrations along with others around the state of Florida in order to educate the public about the positive effects a plant based diet can have on your health, the environment, and the animals we share this planet with. He has had experience with hosting musical events as President of music club at Florida Gulf Coast University in addition to hosting and assisting local open mic nights throughout the community.
Tracey Burton Villalba, SWFL Veg Fest Vendor Manager, is a new addition to our Veg Fest team. Tracey is currently the Senior Worksite Consultant with the Blue Zones Project SWFL, as well as a board-certified holistic health coach, an IIN and CHIP graduate, and a global business consultant with 30+ years experience. After reaping the tremendous benefits of embracing a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle herself, she joined our team as one way of helping others recognize and experience the rewards of a WFPB lifestyle themselves.
Special Thanks for Making SWFL Veg Fest a Success...
Laura DalSanto, Jakob Johnson, Brittany Price, Nino Magaddino, Suzanne Jeffreys, Michael Elliott
Volunteers – without you there would be no SWFL Veg Fest!!