LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Lancaster VegFest returns this upcoming weekend with dozens of vegan food vendors and other merchants celebrating a plant-based lifestyle.

Courtney Kokus started the Lancaster VegFest in 2016, inspired by other VegFests held around the world. “I really thought that Lancaster was ready for it. The plant-based options were really growing at that time,” Kokus said.

The first Lancaster VegFest was held in Musser Park, and it featured about 40 vendors and attracted around 3,500 people, exceeding Kokus’s expectations. VegFest quickly outgrew its original venue, and it is now held at Buchanan Park next to Franklin & Marshall College.

The pandemic put the brakes on the festival temporarily, and this year the event will be held in a modified format. While the typical event includes speakers, live music, chef demonstrations, and kids’ activities where crowds might congregate, the 2021 VegFest will be styled more like a market.

“It’s really focusing on the vendors. There’s merchants, there’s nonprofits, there’s obviously food vendors,” Kokus said. The idea for the 2021 event, which will take place over two days this year instead of one, is to provide a safe experience for community members while still supporting plant-based small businesses.

Kokus loves the energy of Lancaster VegFest and the mixture of people who attend. “It’s a mix of the people who are there because they’re plant-based, and they’re just so relieved to have all of these great options…but then the people who haven’t come, and they’re surprised and excited, and they’re digging the food, and they’re digging the atmosphere, and they’re like, ‘Oh, vegans aren’t what they’re painted to be.'”

The 2021 Lancaster VegFest takes place on Sept. 18 and 19 from noon to 5 p.m. at Buchanan Park. The event is free to enter at those times. VIP tickets can be purchased for entry from 11 a.m. to noon, and they include 10 raffle tickets and a gift bag filled with samples and coupons.

Guests will not be required to wear masks, but unvaccinated attendees are urged to mask up. Kokus suggests everyone wear a mask while waiting in lines or in crowded areas.

Attendees should select both free and VIP tickets online for specific time slots to help manage crowds at the festival. Tickets can be selected here.

Kokus hopes Lancaster VegFest can be back to its normal format and its normal date — the first Saturday in June — next year. Learn more about the event online here.