Cows will stay on the farm this year

Strolling of the Heifers cancels parade, reimagines June events

BRATTLEBORO — There will no heifers strolling down Main Street this June.

Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director Lissa Harris announced on April 6 that the organization will not be holding the famed Saturday parade or the rest of the events that were scheduled for the weekend of June 4-7 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are heartbroken by the number of food businesses having to shutter their doors, unsure if they will ever reopen,” Harris wrote in a letter to The Commons. “And we are witnessing firsthand, in our own hometown of Brattleboro, what this unprecedented event is doing to our downtown businesses and our community.”

“But amid the loss, we also recognize this as a time for new partnerships and an opportunity to reimagine our organization and its role in supporting local food systems,” she continued.

Harris said that the COVID-19 outbreak made it clear “that we will not be able to move forward with the Stroll Weekend events,” adding that “for some events we have a clear plan forward in place already, and for others we are still researching the best options.”

She said her organization is “working closely with the town of Brattleboro, our downtown businesses, and our local and statewide economic development and agricultural organizations to brainstorm ideas and a vision for the future.”

Strolling is also using the forced pause “to look at the potency of our advocacy efforts,” Harris said. “Over the last 20 years, the issues facing our farmers have become more nuanced. This is a great time to explore some more sophisticated advocacy efforts and partnerships in support of our local food systems.”

Harris said there are no plans to reschedule the parade in 2020.

“Looking ahead, we will explore how we can offer this time-honored tradition to our community while also working with Brattleboro's downtown businesses and our parade partners to make sure there is added benefit to all,” she said.

As for the other parts of the Strolling weekend, such as the Vendor Expo Festival, Tour de Heifer bike ride, and farm tours, Harris said that Strolling will likely be rescheduling these events for later this year.

“Many factors have to go into deciding on new dates, including any current or future directives from the state and federal government regarding large public gatherings,” she said. “We are reaching out to our partners, vendors, supporters, registrants, and volunteers to determine their availability and likelihood that they can and will participate.”

She said the organization intends to “craft an event that focuses on our vendors and provides the strongest opportunity for their recovery.”

Other programs, other consequences

The organization's Slow Living Summit will held virtually, Harris said, offering speaker panels via Zoom rather than in person.

“Many of our speakers are already moving to an online platform for their presentations, so this decision seemed like a natural course of action,” she said.

Brattleboro Community Television will advise Strolling of the Heifers on technical issues with the online conference, she noted.

Windham Grows, Strolling's food and farm business accelerator program, will continue as scheduled, although Harris said that “much of our curriculum focus for these cohorts will be on recovery and resiliency.”

“Learning will happen virtually, with video conferencing and webinars until it is safe to gather together in person,” she said.

The River Garden on Main Street will remain closed as long as Gov. Phil Scott's “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order is in effect, Harris said.

“We will stay up to date on any state or federal recommendations for the future. In the meantime, we are actively exploring ways that we can support our local community and our food community as a downtown hub.”

“Once the order is lifted, staff may return to working in the office, though it's unclear if we will be able to open to the public at that time,” she said.

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