Photo Gallery | 2016 Strolling of the Heifers
BRATTLEBORO — It may be a foreign concept to some why thousands of people would swarm a town to watch cows march up Main Street.
But for locals, the Strolling of the Heifers has been a 15-year tradition that the one and only Brattleboro takes pride in. On Saturday, once again the streets were filled and people from all over delighted in the parade and festivities that took place at the Common and the Retreat grounds. From food expos to human foosball, live music, goat Olympics, New England vendors and more – it was yet another event where the sun was shining and smiles were found left and right.
"None of this would happen without all these 'Cattleboroians' who are supporting this incredible signature event for our beloved Brattleboro," said Orly Munzing, founder of Strolling of the Heifers.
Founded in 2002, the Strolling of the Heifers is a free event dedicated to "educating the public about sustainable local agriculture." The weekend has consistently been listed among the top summer events of New England and has received international attention. Now in its second decade, the event has gone from a small-town parade to year-round programs and events.
Several attendees were disappointed not to see Bernie Sanders, candidate for U.S. President and the incumbent junior United States Senator from Vermont, this year at the Stroll. However, some were sympathetic to fact that Sanders had an appointment in California that afternoon and probably had a bit more on his plate this year.
Several people at the Stroll got competitive with the games and activities at the event. Teams of six battled it out in human foosball, where players all stood in a small fenced enclosure, holding onto a series of rotating poles while they tried to shoot a soccer ball through the goal. One player, Tim Wessel of Brattleboro, returned to the Stroll to enjoy the parade, but also to dominate in the activity after getting his "butt kicked" during a game at last year's Stroll.
"We've been prepping all year for the return," Wessel joked. "Clearly it's an important feat in the annals of human history to play human foosball; it's been going down for a millennia, perhaps two millennia."
Wessel and his team played a 10-minute game and came out strong with a five-to-four win.
Other wins were found over at the Goat Olympics where people placed bets on which of the six goats in the adult and kid division they thought would win the race. Every half hour, the goats would be released from one side of the pen to other and prizes would be awarded to those who placed their bets accordingly. For the first, second and a few other rounds, an adult goat named "Eaud" placed first.
In between races the goats were petted and accompanied by the local royal duo, Miss Vermont, Rylee Field, 24, and Miss Vermont Outstanding Teen, Alexandra Diehl, 15. Field and Diehl, both of South Burlington, said they enjoyed their first visit to the Stroll and talked about their experience.
"In the last week, everyone said to me this is the most Vermont thing I'm going to do or this is so much fun, it's such an experience, it's so huge and they've all been accurate," said Field.
Field has chosen "Find a Happy Place: Positive Mental Health & Wellness" as her platform for her year of service. Diehl will be promoting her platform, Y.E.S.S. (Youths Exercising for Strength and Success).
"This is actually my first time in Brattleboro and everyone seems very nice and welcoming and I am so impressed by the community here, just that everyone is so open and sharing here," said Diehl.
While there were several new faces during the Stroll weekend, there were a few returning favorites, such as Amelia Struthers, the Dairy Fairy Godmother. Every year since the Stroll's inception in 2002, Struthers has participated in the parade, wearing a poofy dress while carrying a wand in one hand and spreading "dairy dust" among the children at the event.
"The dairy dust is good for helping you see all the bovinity that there is in the world; there's a need for that these days, to be reminded that our problems are really minor and we have a great community here and that's what the Stroll is about," said Struthers.
In the midst of Struthers' dialogue a young girl, whom she did not know, embraced her and asked to have some dairy dust sprinkled on her face. Struthers asked the girl why dairy dust is good, and the young girl responded, "because it helps fairies fly."
Other children and their parents enjoyed entertainment from the New England Center for Circus Arts, as performers twirled in the air. Other young lads took on the rock climbing wall and some had a laugh at the entertainment tent where they watched different theater, magic and mime performances.
Event attendees delighted in free samples of cheese and other goodies, and then burned off all the dairy under the hot sun or while jamming at the Fiddlers Tent or at the Gazebo where local musicians put on a show.
"The best part of the whole parade and festival is to come out and look back and see the farmers who are coming with their heifers, it makes it worthwhile because they are so happy to see everyone greeting them, it's amazing and great to bring awareness to sustainable agriculture," said Munzing.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275