Vegan Block Party, an event that's brought thousands of Miamians together to celebrate all things vegan since its 2018 launch, will take over Virginia Key Beach Park’s main field this Saturday.
The event will feature more than 100 vendors, from plant-based bakers and burger makers, to cold-pressed juice purveyors and tropical fruit growers. The first 3,000 attendees will also receive a bag they can fill with swag from what event organizer Ariel Levin calls the “sponsor showcase.”
“They can go down the row and collect samples, coupons and merch,” Levin says. She adds that there will be a wellness zone with demonstrations hosted by local yoga studios, meditation and dance instructors, and even a vibration-raising guided cacao ceremony to close out the evening’s lineup.
Vegan chef Robyn Almodovar, who’s appeared on the Food Network and Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, will hold plant-based cooking demonstrations and dole out samples for attendees. The party will also cater to families with games and activities for youngsters.
Levin, who's 23, has been the main force behind venture since its inception. At the time, she was 20 and a college student. Inspired by a vegan festival she attended in Los Angeles that year, Levin decided to put together a similar party in Miami – despite having zero event planning experience. She ended up so consumed with the task, she dropped out of school and hasn't looked back.
For obvious reasons, the fall 2020 edition of the event was canceled, which now puts Levin on her third go-round planning a party on a massive scale (the 2019 event attracted 4,200 guests and she anticipates a similar – or higher – number on Saturday).
And there’s been a lot of learning along the way. After hiccups with the first Vegan Block Party, Levin got wise to a plethora of requirements for throwing a smooth and successful large-scale event – like securing numerous permits from the city, barricading the perimeter so only ticketed guests can enter, and setting clear expectations on the number of freebies that come with a ticket.
“I have taken everything with a grain of salt and used it as constructive criticism to make this event even better,” Levin says. “My biggest takeaway over the last year and a half is that connecting with the community is so important, and this festival does just that.”
She says that, above all, the scenic location for this year’s party will set it apart. “When I did the walk-through, I thought it was just perfect.” And besides its aesthetic appeal, the open-air setup and spaciousness of the venue will allow for easy social distancing, she says.
While the food and drink at the event is 100% plant-based, Levin emphasizes that it's not just for vegans. “My number-one goal is to create an environment that is inclusive and safe for everyone. And I’m also excited to eat all the food and drink all the drinks.”
So what will be her first stop?
“My friends at Miami Fruit have so many delicious exotic fruits. They’ll have durians,” she says, referring to the fruit famed for being a dietary staple in Thailand – and probably even better known so for its pungent aroma. “Yes, it smells. But it’s weird, once you grow a taste for it, you crave it like ice cream.”
To make the most of the experience this year, Levin suggests carpooling, since there is only one narrow road that takes folks in and out of the park. She recommends bringing sunscreen and hats, plus a bathing suit and towel for those who wish to go to the beach and make use of the in-and-out privileges their wristbands grant. And though pets are allowed, she recommends leaving them at home because of potentially scary loud music.
“As much as we love dogs and having them at the events, it may not be the best place for them,” she says.
Vegan Block Party. Saturday, October 16, from noon to 8 p.m. at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Key Biscayne. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $12 for kids age 11 to 17; no charge for kids under 10; veganblockparty.com.