On July 23, compassionate Connecticut residents, businesses, restaurants, vendors and speakers will join together in New Haven for the second annual Compassionfest, a full day of vegan food, entertainment, conversation, crafts, and more. We attended last year’s Compassionfest, and it was awesome – so much good food, amazing local merchandise, great music and high energy! With a move to New Haven, this year’s event promises to be even bigger and features the awesome vegan, animal activist, author, and host of the Our Hen House podcast, Jasmin Singer. This is big time, folks.
We caught up with Compassionfest founder Tabitha Logan to chat about how the event began, what we can expect this year, and her thoughts on the importance of compassion. Basically Tabitha rocks our socks.
So, how did Compassionfest begin?
I was a barber for 14 years. It was a career I found very rewarding in terms of people I got to know, but over time I also began to feel my life was too focused on the external. I started looking inward to find what made me happy. I found that making candles was a healing, meditative practice that relaxed me. I also knew I wanted to make a difference for non-human animals. I’d always felt a special bond with the Hippo. Putting the two together, it became the start of my candle company, Hipponotic Candle. As for “why hippos?,” I feel they’re misunderstood in a way I could personally relate to. People seem to be deeply judgmental about these amazing animals, and I wanted to shed some light both metaphorically and literally. Key to this understanding of the hippo was a book called “A Hippo Love Story” by Karen Paolillo. Her story and the story of the Hippos she saved deeply inspired me, and as such, I vowed to donate 10% of all candle proceeds to “The Turgwe Hippo Trust”, “adopting Hippos” whenever I’d sold enough candles.
It was about 5 years ago that I began attending festivals and events as a vendor. It was through the experience of being a vendor that I learned both what I wanted to see in an event, and the kinds of vendors that I wanted to help. It has been an incredible honor to have gotten to know so many amazing people through these events. Crafters/product-providers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, non-profits, and just plain “good folk”, thinking globally and acting locally, looking to create positive change in their community. Ultimately, I began consider the idea of a whole new kind of community-based event centered around these people and principles of community. The idea bounced around in my mind for a year or so, but came to life when I set foot on the “The 1253”, also known as the “Whitneyville Cultural Commons” in Hamden. It was a feeling that is hard to describe. Basically, I saw the whole event I’d envisioned unfold in my mind as I walked on the grounds. It felt less like a idea than an energy that came to me. That’s when Compassionfest was born. I just new it had to happen, and happen there – even without having met the proprietors. In fact, meeting Laine, Jennifer, and Rob only confirmed everything I’d felt. They proved to be not just open to the idea, but as excited about as me about what Compassionfest was about.
What is the mission of Compassionfest?
The mission of Compassionfest is to unite like-minded people who believe in the values of being just, kindness, equity and compassion. The ideas of Compassionfest represent something that should happen every day, and as such, the event itself is a day when we particularly focus on making it happen; a day to bring your best self forward, leave all divides behind, and resonate on our common ground with absolute respect for one another. It is all welcoming event, a festival of inclusiveness, where everyone should be comfortable to be simply as they are, allowing that same acceptance for those around them. With those principles in place, we also include the rest of the animal kingdom in the idea of Compassionfest. The animals we share the earth with need love and acceptance just as we do. This is the basis for veganism as a core component of Compassionfest. All vendors must be vending 100% vegan, meaning not only that all their foods are only plant-based, but all products manufactured are cruelty-free as well.
How did it feel to see Compassionfest come to fruition? What was last year’s event like? Was the response what you expected? Did anything surprise you?
Last year was a roller coaster of emotions. Being the first Compassionfest, there were a lot of unknowns. And on top of that, a couple of days before the event, my cat companion Thorpedo passed on. He was such a wise and handsome beast. I felt so honored to have him in my life as long as I did. I was grateful he wasn’t in pain anymore, but was still very much grieving over him by the day of the event, which made it bitter-sweet. But I also felt so much love from the community that day. Seeing people smile walking around enjoying the event help mend my heart.
A survey was sent out to those that attended the event. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive feedback and encouragement to continue the event.
Tell us about this year’s event. What can attendees look forward to? What is new, what is changing from last year? What are you most excited about?
We have lots of new & exciting happenings this year. We have lots of speakers this year, with our featured speaker is Jasmin Singer, known for her wildly popular podcast “Our Hen House”, and also now for her bestselling new book Always Too Much and Never Enough (which I am reading now and can’t praise enough). Also speaking this year is Connecticut’s own vegan celebrity and founder of Ahimsa Health & Harmony Wellness Center, Mary Lawrence. Besides speakers, there will also be a poetry slam hour with Sky Raven The Vegan Poet, a healing workshop by Kelvin Young of Toivo, as well as numerous other DYI workshops on the grounds. New this year is what we call “The Time-in Teepee”, a giant meditation teepee in the middle of the grounds where people can escape from talking and crowds for a moment of peace.
Of the 70+ compassionate causes and cruelty-free product vendors we are honored to host, new this year we have G-Zen‘s award-winning vegan food mobile Gmonkey, rated one of the country’s top 5 best food trucks by both VegNews and Peta. We also honored to have Sea Shepherd Conservation Society this year. And well know vegan apparel company Grape Cat… There are too many new and returning wonderful vendors to name here, for the full list of who’s coming this year, please see our website (www.Compassionfest.net). (ed note: Vegan CT will have a table as well – stop by and say hi!)
This year I have a much better idea of the lay of the land and the max of vendors we can fit. I know now more space could have been filled. Its all a learning process. It starts with desire then the rest will follow. Sure at times I am afraid of failing or looking like a fool. There are no guarantees in life. What helps me get by is an open heart and a good sense of humor. I can honestly say most times I have a tendency to jump into the void. My husband Bret can attest to this. Lol.
I am most excited about Compassionfests turning up in other communities. Vegan Spirituality is lending a helping hand in offering to get the ball rolling with this. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compassionfest gives me hope for a better future for the People, The Land & The Animals. Love is always the answer no matter what the question. We need our community to come together in order to remind ourselves change is possible. I am dedicated to the Compassionfest cause. I plan on continuing doing my part in the Compassionfest Revolution. It so much more than one day – it’s a movement.
What does Compassion mean to you? What are some easy things anyone can do to practice a little extra compassion?
I like how Prince put it: “Compassion is an action word without boundaries”
I think its important to remember to practice different forms of compassion in action. Be the change you want to see even when no one seems to be paying attention. Don’t forget to be good to yourself you are worth it. Practice self-compassion.