Tampa Bay Veg Fest: Former & original organizers, plus keynote speaker Grey

On this edition of the show, we reconfigured the regular format a bit, so as to accommodate taking a good look—from a couple of angles—at the Tampa Bay Veg Fest (TBVF), set this year for Nov. 9 at Perry Harvey Sr. Park. First, in recognition that Veg Fest is marking its 10th anniversary, I invited Isabelle Tassi—the original organizer, who helped launch TBVF—and Diane Koon, one of the current organizers, who’s been involved from the earliest years, to have a conversation that sought to fashion something of an oral history. Tassi recounts the impetus for starting TBVF, and the initial steps to get it off the ground, and some of the challenges of mounting an outdoor event, including the permits required by the city and occasional oddly-specific policies—she recalls a rescue organization that wanted to bring two pigs to Veg Fest, the city balked at allowing this, Tassi persisted, and ultimately she received permission for the pigs. In discussing TBVF triumphs and successes—including a turnout the first year that far exceeded their expectations, and that attendance has grown so steadily they relocated to a larger park—it’s mentioned that, in 2014, five years after it was founded, TBVF was named by One Green Planet one of “10 Must-Attend Veg Fests in the US.” (https://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/must-attend-veg-fests-in-the-us/) Bringing the conversation up to the present—well, near future, really—Koon outlines some highlights of the upcoming Nov. 9 edition, including a whopping 160 vendors, the Vegan BBQ contest, keynote speeches by Grey (see below) and Paul Watson (swashbuckling founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society), a new feature added to the Veggie Kids’ Zone, the return of the Ask A Vegan Expert booth, and more. (http://www.tampabayvegfest.com)

In the second half of the show, I spoke with vegan hip-hop artist and activist Grey, who will be a keynote speaker at this year’s TBVF. He addresses being a Florida native, growing up in the Fort Lauderdale, getting interested in music early on. Grey discusses recording his first album, “UnDaEsTiMaTed,” which came out in 2001, and his second one “Grey Skies” in 2004. Then, he explains, came an interruption to his musical career: He went off to college, at Jacksonville University–on a football scholarship. After graduating, he returned to making music, moving to Baltimore. Another album followed in 2013, generating some radio airplay, with Grey doing some touring, moving to Atlanta, doing more. Grey recalled the genesis of his so-popular-it-went-viral Thanksgiving Video: it was one of his regular freestyle raps, but this one exhorted the virtues of various vegan dishes, drew inspiration from—and wove in a snippet of–gospel belter Shirley Caesar singing her song that does the same (“beans, greens, potatoes, and tomatoes!”), and it took off. He describes what it’s like to experience a viral video from the inside. Grey also talks about the clothing line he launched, Plant Based Drippin, and how the brand is now moving into producing the first Plant Based Drippin Festival, a Veg Fest-like event slated to happen in Atlanta on Nov. 23. And he provides a brief sneak preview of the talk he’ll deliver at Tampa Bay Veg Fest. (https://plantbaseddrippin.com, https://www.instagram.com/officialgreymusic/)

COMEDY CORNER: Chris Porter’s “Vegan Date” (portion) (https://chrisporterisfunny.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Stephanie Seymour’s “Ruby-crowned Kinglet,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Steely Dan’s “Monkey In Your Soul”

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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