The Red Herring, a beloved vegan restaurant just east of the quad in Urbana, has been a hub of progressivism and political activism over the past 50 years. This campus institution, which began as a coffee house, has nurtured musical talent and activist endeavors from the Civil Rights movement to immigration reform. Vern Fein, local (retired) special educator, pastor, poet, and early volunteer will be sharing stories at the 50th anniverary event this Saturday. “As students, then, we needed a place to hang out so we started the coffee house...it is great to see that it is still serving people 50 years later, a true legacy. Of course we sold coffee and snacks, vegetarian restaurants still having not arrived in the Midwest yet, and had poetry readings and political speeches regularly from the stage.” Though it’s focus may have shifted to serving up quality vegan food to students and community members alike, it still maintains threads of the past: through live music, poetry readings, and just being a space where progressive groups can gather, plan, and create change.
Julie looks into the history of The Red Herring as the campus institution prepares to celebrate 50 years.