Every year in Watkins Glen, NY there is an event that turns the quiet little town into a bustling mecca of vegandom. The Glen is known to many as a NASCAR hot spot, or perhaps a place to get buzzed while buzzing around between wineries, but for those looking to have a deeper experience the Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down is something truly special.
I arrived on Friday night and set up my tent and then hung out by the camp fire, serenading myself and whoever else wanted to listen with my ukulele. I was so happy to be at the farm after a long absence that I stayed up till almost 4 a.m. I made some new friends and hung out beneath my old friends, the moon and stars.
Saturday at the Hoe Down offered a fine line-up of vegan speakers and workshops, which this year included Crazy Sexy Cancer survivor (or thriver, as she would say) Kriss Carr, vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur, sanctuary animal caregiver Susie Coston, FS Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives Bruce Friedrich, humane educator Zoe Weil, author Victoria Moran, cooking demos, and more.
At night the farm transformed into one of the best vegan parties around. The transition period included a cocktail hour with live music, a showing of the documentary Forks Over Knives, and a Hilda Club tour to visit the critters on the farm around twilight (a magical time on the farm). Gene Baur gave a presentation on his trip across the country in the VW van that he once sold veggie dogs at Grateful Dead concerts from to finance the farm. Kindfood from Ontario presented Gene with a beautiful cake to commemorate Farm Sanctuary's 25th anniversary.
Once darkness was firmly established the contra dancing began in the People Barn, and the crazy vegans started to let loose. Soon after a live DJ took over and the rowdy dancers shook the rafters of the barn, earning the right to call this party a hoe down. Simultaneously another camp fire began outside for those who didn't want to dance, or who needed to take a break to roast their vegan marshmallows. That fire went on long after I fell asleep exhausted.
Most of us camped in tents and we all enjoyed big meals served on the deck of the People Barn. Sunday morning featured a yoga class led by Katya Burns, a coffee talk with the Farm Sanctuary staff, and breakfast. I got to spend some time with Gene and Susie out on the farm, and recorded an interview for an upcoming episode of Vegan Radio. By lunch there were torrential downpours, whose melodious pitter-patter struck a soothing symphony on the tin roof of the People Barn. I had to pack my tent up during the deluge, so I got a free shower before my ride home, which my fellow travelers appreciated. I am so blessed to be part of this vegan revolution.