BRATTLEBORO >> It's like nothing else that Brattleboro offers - for five hours . The Strolling of the Heifers' entertainment lineup set to take place on the Common and the Retreat grounds features a variety of events and genres of music including fiddlers, brass, Cajun and jazz bands, music for children, magic and puppet shows, aerialist, goat races, human foosball and even a flea circus. From 11 a.m. after the signature Stroll Parade until 4 p.m. when Darryl Kniffen puts down his drum sticks, agriculture and entertainment work together at the Slow Living Expo in celebration of our farmers.
The fun kicks off on Friday evening with a Friday Evening Street Festival coinciding with the monthly Gallery Walk from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Main Street will be closed to traffic from Elliot to High streets, filled instead with vendors and entertainment. Look for the Celebration Brass Band will be on the corner of Elliot and Main.
Stroll's entertainment chair Beth Kiendle takes on the tough job of planning and booking all of Saturday's acts that fill the tents staked out on the Retreat grounds, plus the gazebo on the Common, always with a focus on local and regional artists. She will be busy Saturday setting up the tents with the help of sound engineer Kevin Parry to ensure the acts have what they need to provide a full day of entertainment. Since the audience is mobile, wandering about and checking out whatever piques their interest, the sets are short and sweet, each lasting half an hour to 45 minutes. This is the stuff one usually has to pay to see and hear, all free, all day .
In the past, the Celebration Brass Band with members Pete Simoneaux on bass drum, Steve Voorhees on snare, Linda Simoneaux on Sousaphone, Scott Sizer on trumpet, Ron Kelley on alto sax, and Dan DeWalt on trombone, had always led the parade. This year they will bring up the rear of the parade and settle on Park Street in front of the Brattleboro Common to welcome parade-goers with traditional brass parade music.
The C&S Family Entertainment tent is a staple at each year's Stroll. It will be emceed by the "Dairy Godmother" Amelia Struthers and will feature Sandglass Theatre's Fritzi's Flea Circus and a puppet show Punschi; Absolutely Magic: Andrew Pinard; Mad Science, the children's group Swing Peepers.
A music tent to highlight a different genre is planned each year. For 2016, it is the fiddlers in a FiddleFest with some foot-stomping, upbeat sound featuring Roger Treat and Roger Kahle; Easy Street; Lissa Schneckenberger Band; Inisheer; Young Tradition VT; Brattleboro Music Center Youth Fiddlers; Becky Tracy and Keith Murphy.
Also, back by popular demand, Human Foosball will be set up on the Retreat grounds. Bring a team, or join one there. Designed by Sam Groves, it is active and fun to play or just watch. Or check out The New England Center for Circus Arts where advanced and professional students will be showcased throughout the day with shows that will amaze you as aerialists, jugglers, acrobats entertain the crowd. Another popular event that is a real hit with the kids (both kinds), Goat Olympics, returns. Young goats from Gay and Dan Foster's Hollyhock Farm in Putney race to be the first to their feeding bowls. Place bets to win Strolling of the Heifers merchandise, pet them in between races.
On the Common a variety of music genres will visit the gazebo, starting out with the calm and peaceful sounds of Vibrant Ensemble with Stephen Brandstatter and Dennis Waring so as not to disturb the heifers arriving from the parade. Once the cows leave at 12:30 p.m., things get lively with jazz, reggae and more as The Speckers; Audrey and Clayton; Bayou X; Novad vs. Settler; VT Shakedown; and Darryl Kniffen take the stage.
Simoneaux, who is a member of the Celebration Brass Band is also one-half of BayouX with his wife Linda), a New Orleans band playing from a large repertoire of Cajun and zydeco music, two different but related styles native to Louisianna. They will be playing on the gazebo at 1:15 p.m. Playing for 30 years and known for playing and writing traditional New Orleans style music that included singing in French, Simoneaux said the BayouX as of late has been moving away from that, expressing themselves in English mostly, finding that the audience connects more with that. They have also become more and more influenced by swing and R&B, evident in their CD presently in production. They will feature new tunes from that CD that he described as complicated vocals played with zest. He said, "We're excited about that!"
Fiddlers Becky Tracy and husband Keith Murphy, both teachers at the Brattleboro Music Center, will be in the Fiddlers Tent as will the Brattleboro Music Center Youth Fiddlers. Tracy and Murphy have been in the parade many times with the youth fiddlers that she said was a blast to do even in the rain, but this is the first year they have invited to play in the music tent. It will also be the first time for many of the youth fiddlers. Tracy and Murphy's music is traditional New England, Celtic, jigs and reels that the immigrants brought with them, influenced over the years by the French of Quebec, either original music or recently composed in that style. Tracy said, "It's exciting that traditional fiddle music will be represented in the tent too."
First time at the Stroll in the Fiddlers Tent will be the Lissa Schneckenberger Band. She said it is super fun to do a performance in her home town where it will be more personal since she will know many of the people in the audience, and also because the setting is more low key and smaller than venues they are used to. She is looking forward to checking out her fellow fiddlers when they play and rest of festivities going on. "Besides," she said, "What a great excuse to not take any away gigs that weekend. It will be fun!" The band also plays traditional folk music from the Northeast dating back 100 years or more. Their time slot is 12:25 p.m. Expect to hear some danceable music. Get out the picnic basket and enjoy. Visit lissafiddle.com for more information on their music
Duo Lisa Brande and husband Mark Trichka of Easy Street, set to play at 11:40 a.m. in the Fiddlers Tent where they will bring their repertoire of Louisiana music, Cajun and zydeco, all upbeat dance music. She pointed out that the tent is a vehicle more for showing different styles for a listening experience than for dancing, but no one will stop the errant body that can't sit still. Brande said, "I think it is a wonderful opportunity to experience the best of Vermont. I am happy to be part of that, we have a great opportunity to celebrate the best things in life."
Shoshana Bass will thrill children and adults alike with Sandglass Theatre's Fritzi's Flea Circus. She inherited the show from her mother whom Bass described as brilliant and creative. Her mother originally created the show, inspired by the traditional flea circus of her native Germany, then handed it down to her. Bass has been touring with it for two years now projecting her tiny world into the imaginations of the audience as the little flea performs stunts. He wakes up, lifts weights, and walks a tight rope, while accompanied by an accordion and a kazoo. The audience's reaction engrossed as the watch intently the circus shows how very willing people are to believe. Bass described her show as "way more spectacular" than the traditional circus show. Unfortunately the flea is too exhausted after the show to visit with the children after the show.
The giant tents provide cover from the sun or rain, so don't be afraid to come on down. There are lots of things going on, on both levels. Listen to the music, check out food demos every half hour specializing in beef and cheese recipes, foods of all sorts, specialty foods and ice cream - lots and lots of ice cream! There is even a baby oasis tent for nursing or just a quiet spot to rest with the baby.
Kiendl concluded her interview with, "Please, come and enjoy the fun!"
Schedule of events:
Strolling of the Heifers Street Festival
Friday, June 3, 3016, 5:30-8:30 p.m. — Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont
Monthly Gallery Walk event — art openings at many venues, including our Farm Art show!
Entertainment Stage (beside The Works Bakery Café, west side of Main Street)
5:30-8:30 p.m.: Alan Greenleaf and the Doctor
And local entertainers along the sidewalk and roaming the street.
Strolling of the Heifers Parade
Saturday, June 4, 2015, 10 a.m. — Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont
Pre-parade entertainment starting about 9 a.m.:
The Dairy Godmother (Amelia Struthers)
Brattleboro Nursery School
Celebration Brass Band
Slow Living Expo — 11 acres of fun, food, entertainment, exhibits, open all day!
Saturday, June 5, 2015, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. — Commons and Retreat Grounds, Brattleboro, Vermont
On the Retreat Grounds:
New England Center for Circus Arts offers shows throughout the day on the Retreat Grounds featuring advanced and professional students from around the world. They will amaze & entertain you as they swing through the air & share juggling, acrobatics, comedy & more
Human Foosball! Join the fun by putting together your own team!
C&S Family Entertainment Tent
11:00 — Sandglass Theatre: Fritzi's Flea Circus
11:05 — Absolutely Magic: Andrew Pinard
11:50 — Sandglass Theatre: Punschi
12:20 —Sandglass Theatre: Fritzi's Flea Circus
12:40 —Swing Peepers
1:05 —Chris Yerlig's Mime and Magic Show
1:40 — Sandglass Theatre: Fritzi's Flea Circus
2:05 — Sandglass Theatre: Punschi
2:35 — Swing Peepers
3:00 — Mad Science of Western New England
11:00 — Roger Treat & Roger Kahle
11:40 — Easy Street
12:25 — Lissa Schneckenberger Band
1:10 — Inisheer
1:50 — Young Tradition VT
2:30 — Brattleboro Music Center Youth Fiddlers
2:45 — Becky Tracy & Keith Murphy
The Gazebo — at the center of the Brattleboro Commons
11:00 — Vibrant Ensemble
11:50 — Audrey and Clayton
12:40 — The Speckers
1:15 — Bayou X
2:00 — Nomad vs. Settler
2:50 — VT Shakedown
3:30 — Darryl Kniffen