BRATTLEBORO—The 17th annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend, featuring a parade of flower-bedecked heifer calves led by future farmers up Main Street, takes place June 1, 2, and 3. Organizers promise many special surprises for the occasion.
As usual, the centerpiece of the weekend is the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, which starts promptly at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 2.
This year’s parade theme is “May the FARMS Be With You,” so expect the heifers and other marchers to be dressed in their intergalactic best. The heifer calves lead the parade and are followed by other farm animals, tractors, bands, floats, and much more.
The crowd then follows the parade to the all-day Slow Living Expo to enjoy food, family fun, entertainment, and exhibits. The Expo stretches over two sites and 11 acres on the Brattleboro Common and the Brattleboro Retreat grounds.
Over the years, Strolling of the Heifers has grown from a one-hour parade into a full weekend packed with family events that attracts thousands of visitors to this scenic Connecticut Valley town in the heart of New England.
But, as executive director Orly Munzing is quick to point out, Strolling of the Heifers is more than a fun weekend in June.
Its mission, she said, is “to connect people with healthy local foods and with the farmers and producers who bring it to them.”
That mission has expanded in recent years to include a year-round set of programs aimed at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in farm and food businesses.
That evolution can be seen at the Slow Living Expo. First and foremost, the event shows support and appreciation for family farmers, but it also features many other regional food producers, as well as vendors and exhibitors of sustainable goods and services.
Besides meeting the heifers up close, visitors will find makers of many specialty foods including candies, chocolates, condiments, sauces, meats, pizzas, and beverages, along with craftspeople, green building and home energy specialists, and healthy living and woodlands exhibitors.
There are three major stages offering entertainment. On the Retreat Grounds, there is the C&S Wholesale Family Entertainment Tent, a Music tent, and on the Common, a variety of traditional and contemporary musical entertainers in the Gazebo.
A crowd favorite at the Expo is the nonstop trapeze show by the New England Center for Circus Arts, which is based in Brattleboro.
One of the most popular attractions each year is the Goat Olympics featuring goats from Adams Farm in Wilmington.
For additional excitement, check out the Human Foosball pavilion and sign up to participate in the round-robin tournament. Human Foosball is played in an enclosed arena with players required to hold on to sliding bars while trying to score goals with the soccer ball.
The MOOver cow-themed buses will be on-hand to shuttle the public from Main Street to both Expo sites, and the Retreat Farm for a free air-conditioned, handicap accessible alternative to walking.
The buses will be making a loop with stops at the Common, The Retreat Grounds, The Retreat Farm/Childrens’ Farm & Forest, and Grafton Cheese Store, Cedar Street at Western Avenue, and A Candle in the Night on Main Street. Look for the MOOver signs at the designated bus stops. Buses will leave each stop approximately every 10 minutes.
Here is the full list of Strolling of the Heifers Weekend highlights:
• Gallery Walk and the finals of the Great New England Bundt Cake Competition — On Friday, June 1, from 5:15 to 9 p.m., the town’s Main Street is shut down for a three-hour party with musicians, clowns, and street vendors.
The Stroll’s headquarters, the River Garden, will host the finals of its Great New England Bundt Cake Competition, including public tasting to determine the People’s Choice award winner. The River Garden will also host specialty food vendors, and several Vermont distillers, brewers, and cideries will be selling drinks and products to take home.
• Farm Art — an exhibit of farm-themed art will be at the River Garden Gallery during Stroll Weekend and continuing for the month of June. “Pasture and Barnyard”, paintings by Basha Freudenberg, and “Naive Omniscience,” paintings by Peter K.K. Williams.
• The Strolling of the Heifers Parade — Saturday, June 2, at 10 a.m. sharp, featuring up to 100 heifer calves, bedecked with flowers for the occasion and led by proud future farmers, along with many other farm animals, bands, floats, tractors, clowns, and much more. (Please, no dogs at the parade or Expo, since they may scare the animals.)
• The Slow Living Expo — all day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) on Saturday, June 2. This 11-acre festival happens at the Brattleboro Common and on the grounds of the Brattleboro Retreat. The Healthy Living Village at the Retreat Grounds will be expanded this year to include speakers, demonstrations, and even more health and wellness products and services.
• The Famous Farmers Breakfast — Sunday morning, June 3. The Stroll’s annual showcase of natural and organic breakfast foods, held at the Marina Restaurant, off Putney Road at the West River.
• The Tour de Heifer — all day, Sunday June 3. Vermont’s most challenging dirt road cycling tours, with 15, 30, and 60-mile options, plus a 3-mile hiking option. Wood-fired pizza and local beer served for lunch.
• Farm Tour — Sunday, June 3. The Stroll has partnered with five special farms in the Brattleboro area, each with something unique to offer, which will be offering guided tours.
The money raised during Strolling of the Heifers weekend supports the Stroll’s year round programs at its River Garden headquarters in downtown Brattleboro. These include a Farm-to-Table Culinary Apprenticeship Program and Windham Grows, a program that helps scale up farm and food enterprises by providing them with mentorship, consulting, services, and resources. There are also daily brown bag lunch events featuring speakers and musicians.