BRATTLEBORO -- Even though it takes a full year of planning, hundred of volunteer hours, and thousands of dollars in donations, there is always one variable in preparing for the Strolling of the Heifers that is out of the hands of organizers: The weather can never be predicted a full year in advance.

And even though one of the first things organizers say is that the event is held rain or shine, a rainy day with temperatures in the 60s can dampen some spirits.

This year it looks like Mother Nature is cooperating. When the first heifer begins strolling up Main Street at 10 a.m. clear skies are expected with temperatures forecast to be in the low 70s.

It may get a little warm later, but by then the heifers will be in their barns and the crowds will be under the canopy of trees on the Common and the Retreat campus, ideally with a cool drink or ice cream in their hands.

The 13th annual Strolling of the Heifers parade starts 10 a.m. sharp on Flat Street, with the parade making its way up Main Street to the Common.

Parade organizers are encouraging visitors to park by 9 a.m. and get a good seat along Main Street.

There are shuttle buses running from near Brattleboro Union High School and Route 9, near the I91 exits 1 and 2.

Many streets around Main Street and the Common are closed to parking during Saturday and police encourage drivers to check the latest information at www.strollingoftheheifers.com.

While the parade has always been the centerpiece of the weekend, Strolling of the Heifers is now a five-day event which stretches from Wednesday, when the Slow Living Summit kicks off, through Sunday when the final bicycle rider crosses the finish the line for the Tour De Heifer.

Following the parade Saturday all of the action centers around the 11-acre Slow Living Expo which is located at the Brattleboro Common and the Brattleboro Retreat campus.

There will be three tents with entertainment, plenty of free food samples and vendors, crafts, and displays on forestry and sustainable energy.

Visit the expo before the parade for Pete & Gerry's famous organic breakfast, which opens at 7 a.m.

Organizers are striving to make Strolling of the Heifers a zero waste event, so do your part by making sure all of the waste makes its way to the proper recycling or composting bins which will be located throughout the expo grounds

Most of Saturday's events wrap up by 4 p.m. but the fun continues into Sunday.

The Strolling of the Heifers famous Farmers' Breakfast will be served this year at The Marina off of Putney Road.

There will be farm tours at five area farms Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tours are planned in East Dummerston, West Brattleboro and Guilford.

A full schedule is on the Strolling of the Heifers web site and in the free program that is distributed throughout town.

This year's Tour De Heifer includes bicycle tours for every ability.

The traditional challenging 15, 30 and 60 mile routes will wind their ways up and over Vermont's famous hills, and this year more gentle 15 and 30 mile tours are planned for families.

There will also be a guided five mile hike from Lilac Ridge Farm in West Brattleboro, which is also where the bike tours begin

For all of the information about Saturday's and Sunday's events go to www.strollingoftheheifers.com.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.