Of heifers and hometowns

Annual parade, festival showcases local farmers and local food

BRATTLEBORO — The 18th annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend, featuring a parade of future farmers leading flower-bedecked heifer calves through historic Main Street, takes place June 7, 8, and 9.

According to a news release, organizers promise many special surprises this weekend. A full schedule is available at www.StrollingOfTheHeifers.com.

The centerpiece of the weekend is the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, which starts promptly at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 8. The signature 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 will be on the Brattleboro Common and Lower Linden Street.

Over the years, Strolling of the Heifers has grown from a one-hour parade into a full weekend packed with family events that attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

The mission of Strolling of the Heifers is to connect people with healthy local foods and with the farmers and producers who bring it to them.

In recent years, the mission has expanded to include a year-round set of programs aimed at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in farm and food businesses.

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.

At the Slow Living Expo, visitors will find makers of many specialty foods including candies, chocolates, condiments, sauces, meats, food and beverages, along with craftspeople, green building and home energy specialists, healthy living, and woodlands exhibitors. Visitors will also get to visit with the heifers.

The day will be filled with music and entertainment at the gazebo in the center of the Common and other locations. Music styles from honky-tonk to hip-hop with some folk, jazz, and a cappella will be performed by local and national bands.

A crowd favorite at the Expo is the non-stop trapeze artists show by Brattleboro's New England Center for Circus Arts.

Weekend highlights

• Friday Fest and the finals of the Great New England Coffee Cakes & Sweet Breads Competition - Friday evening, June 7 from 5 to 9 p.m., the party will start on the Common with food trucks, vendors, and live music in the gazebo.

On Main Street, the Stroll's River Garden headquarters will host a Specialty Foods and Vermont Beverages Expo, with tasting of spirits and beer from Vermont distillers and brewers.

Also in the River Garden will be the finals of the Great New England Coffee Cakes & Sweet Breads Competition, including public tasting to determine the People's Choice award winner.

The MOOver bus will be giving free rides between Main Street and the Common during the evening.

• Farm Art - Every June, the Gallery at the Garden at Strolling of the Heifers' headquarters at 157 Main Street features works with a farm theme.

This year, artists Amber Bessette and Steven Meyers will display their artwork all month. Bessette's acrylic paintings feature “Young Women in Farming” scenes from around her Guilford farm. Steven Meyer's work depicts old farmsteads and dense forests from the West River Valley rendered with India ink on Yupo paper.

• The Strolling of the Heifers Parade - Saturday, June 8, at 10 a.m. sharp. The parade theme this year is “Farmers Are Our Heroes!” The heifers lead the parade, and there is pre-parade entertainment. (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 June 8. This festival happens at the Brattleboro Common and lower Linden Street and is attended by the entire parade audience, which follows the parade up Main Street to come to the Expo.

Among other things, the Expo will showcase home energy exhibits, crafts, and wellness, plus entertainment, food trucks with food from around the world, and lots of surprises.

• The Famous Farmer's Breakfast - Sunday morning, June 9. 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 9. Vermont's most challenging dirt road cycling tours, with 15, 30 and 60-mile options, plus a 3-mile hiking option. Hosted by the Robb Family Farm in Brattleboro.

• Farm Tour - Sunday, June 9. The Stroll has partnered with six 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, largely through business sponsorships, 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 socially conscious 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.

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