'Give Peas a Chance,' Veggie Priders Will Say
By GARY SHAPIRO
Vegetarians will be saying "Give Peas a Chance" as they march through Greenwich Village Sunday during the first Veggie Pride Parade.
Beginning in the meatpacking district, of all places, the celery celebrants will wend their way to Washington Square Park for a rally featuring music and exhibitor tables.
The parade organizer, Pamela Rice, thinks big. Veggie Pride "will be the Woodstock of the 21st century," she says. Ms. Rice has spent hundreds of hours preparing for the event, which she says has a serious purpose: "We want people to understand the ramifications of their food choices."
Marchers may pepper the parade route with chants such as "What do we want? Vegan options in our schools! When do we want it? Now!" and carry eye-catching placards such as "Eating Meat: So 20th Century."
After speeches and awards for best slogan and costume, the afternoon will culminate in a wedding of two mascots: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals's orange-clad Chris P. Carrot will marry VivaVegie Society's 7-foot-tall Penelo Pea Pod. Ms. Rice said Chris P. Carrot was "finally settling down." She mused whether the pair would need a marriage license.
The Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit that educates the public about vegetarianism, conducted a poll in 2006 that found 6.7% of Americans 18 or older say they never eat meat. While the parade numbers are difficult to estimate, Ms. Rice wants Veggie Pride to attracts meat lovers, too. "We welcome nonvegetarians as long as they behave," Ms. Rice said with a laugh. The parade will have 10 marshals in bright orange vests to keep the peace and 10 outreach volunteers in bright yellow vests.
One might overhear chatting about vegan marshmallows or Rastafarian fare at the expo, where attendees will learn about a variety of vegetarian organizations and have an opportunity to purchase books and other literature. "New York is a mecca for vegetarian restaurants and vegan food. No question about it," Ms. Rice said. An attorney and City Council candidate, Yetta Kurland, said one of her favorite places to eat vegetarian cuisine is Miyagi, the Japanese restaurant on West 13th Street. A speaker at the upcoming event who lives in Chelsea, Ms. Kurland said: "For me, living a vegetarian lifestyle is about humane treatment of animals and about responsibility."
Driving in from Texas in a van will be New Jersey-born guitarist and singer Cheryl Hill, whose band will be performing. One specially prepared tune will be "Get Your Green On," which she described as a rock song with a "funk disco vibe." The official song for the event, it begins: "I like vegetables/ I like fruits/ Their sexy colors/ And their healthy attributes."
Ms. Rice said Veggie Pride NYC was inspired by a Veggie Pride parade in Paris that began in 2001; it is not affiliated with the New York event. She said that while the annual French event has traditionally tended to focus more on animal rights, the emphasis at the New York event is aiming to focus also on environmental and health concerns. The event will show that there has been an entire culture that has grown up around vegetarianism in the past few decades, she said.
Asked what that culture included, she offered the example "potluck" meals that are popular among vegetarians, perhaps more in suburban settings than in the city. She also offered a tip to anyone hosting a vegetarian potluck: Ask attendees to list ingredients with the food.
Ms. Rice said vegetarians really cross all lines culturally in America. She summed up her basic goal for Veggie Pride day by saying she wanted it to help dispel misconceptions and make vegetarianism "just a little more tenable" in society.