Founder of Vegan Street Fair shares breast cancer journey and her fight to keep her passions alive

Jory Rand Image
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Vegan Street Fair founder shares breast cancer story: 'I'm still here'
Jessica Cruz is recovering from a double mastectomy, but not only is her personal health a concern, the health of her company and her life's passion are top of mind as well.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- If you're one of the nearly quarter of a million people who have attended the Vegan Street Fair since it began in 2015, you have Jessica Cruz to thank.

"People come from all over the world for it, which is probably my favorite thing," she said.

This single mother of two is truly a force. She nearly single handedly expanded the event from one festival a year to two festivals. Then, the pandemic hit.

"We lost about a quarter of a million dollars, and we didn't know if we could come back from that. We almost went bankrupt," said Cruz.

The street fair survived and not only introduced a weekly event, but also expanded across the country.

"We did New York, Seattle, we did Atlanta, we did the Bay Area, Las Vegas, Miami, and I have Austin this coming weekend, which is nuts!" said Cruz.

However, about three months ago came news that nearly took down the whole thing, and Cruz herself.

"I get the call, I'm driving my kids to school, they say, 'Hey, we need you to see our surgeon,'" recalled Cruz.

At 41, Cruz was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three weeks later, she had a double mastectomy, removing both breasts. Through her journey, she admits there have been some dark times.

"[I thought] is this going to be my last sunset?' It was scary, but then when I saw the next sunset, the next day I said, 'It wasn't! It wasn't! I'm still here,'" said Cruz.

Cruz has gone through recovery with openness and her customary sense of humor.

"The recovery's been wonderful. That part's easy," she said. "I tell everybody all the time, 'Breast cancer's not my problem.' It's getting people to my events, which is crazy, but true."

And her events nearly went away. Cruz had to cancel the Denver event and push back the one in Austin with struggles in Las Vegas.

The fair was once again on the brink until some of her friends stepped up to help. They did something Cruz would never do: ask for help. The friends started a GoFundMe that has so far raised thousands of dollars.

Cruz says that money has already alleviated the stress that came with cancer, and she's going to use it to make sure people can be in place to help run the event if she's not around.

However, she'll be in North Hollywood in the spring for Vegan Street Fair 2024.

If you're interested in helping Cruz's cause, you can visit her GoFundMe here.