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PETA wants vegetable beef soup and all other meat dishes off the menu at the Johnny Appleseed Festival, in deference to the event’s namesake.

How ’bout them apples? PETA seeks vegan menu at Johnny Appleseed fest

Despite a request from a national animal-rights group to become a vegetarian festival, the Johnny Appleseed Festival will keep meat on the menu this year.

In August, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to festival organizers suggesting vendors stop selling meat at the festival as a way to honor Johnny Appleseed as “one of the country’s first iconic vegetarians.”

Although festival organizers recognize Appleseed was a vegetarian, they denied the request, in part because it came too late in the planning stage of the festival, scheduled for Sept. 15-16 at Johnny Appleseed Park.

“It was a lot to ask,” festival spokeswoman Bridget Kelly said.

“Plus, it’s just too late. No one is willing to change anything at this point.”

In response to PETA’s request, organizers agreed to ask food vendors to consider adding vegetarian options for next year’s festival but have been criticized in recent days by loyal attendees.

“I’ve had people tell me their kids are saying if there are no turkey legs at the festival, they aren’t going,” Kelly said. “Everybody has their thing that, to them, is the epitome of the festival. To some people, it’s the turkey legs.”

Vendors at the Johnny Appleseed Festival are required to serve food from the pioneer era, prepared over coal or wood fires. Although dishes such as chicken and noodles and ham and bean soup are popular, there are also meatless options including apple dumplings, caramel apples, apple pie, apple fritters, fried apples rolled in cinnamon sugar and regular old apples.

“We’re disappointed that the festival will not go completely vegetarian this year,” PETA campaign manager Danielle Katz said. “But we’re hopeful that vendors will begin to incorporate vegetarian foods moving forward.”

PETA will continue to work toward a meatless Johnny Appleseed festival, beginning by handing out fliers at the festival that encourage people to “follow in Johnny’s kind footsteps by going vegetarian,” Katz said.

“We look forward to working with organizers well in advance of the festival next year, too,” she said.

“For now, we’re offering the festival some recipes to give to vendors featuring an array of vegan recipes such as apple pie and vegetarian chili.”

Despite these efforts, a meatless Johnny Appleseed Festival is not likely, Kelly said.

“People come out to enjoy that kind of thing and I can’t remove it completely,” she said.

“At the moment we don’t have a plan to make the festival 100 percent vegan. But, who knows? That might change down the road.”