Strolling of the Heifers touts health and wellness

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BRATTLEBORO — Health and wellness are becoming more and more of a focus at the Strolling of the Heifers as interest in these topics grows among those who attend the event.

"This year, we have the information sessions," said Judy Eshelman, coordinator of development and marketing for the Strolling of the Heifers. "I think it sheds a light on some of the products and the people there. It makes it more of a village."

The Slow Living Expo follows the Strolling of the Heifers parade Saturday. Spreading out over 11 acres near the Brattleboro Common are food vendors, entertainers, artisans, games and activities.

Eshelman told the Reformer the event has long had a tent devoted to wellness, but the presentations are new and the topics are timely. She believes the idea for inviting speakers sprang out of relationships developed between sponsors and her organization over the years.

"It's a nice lineup of speakers," Eshelman said. "They're just willing to tell people about their expertise, which is something we always love."

Talks in a big tent on the Brattleboro Retreat grounds will begin immediately after the parade.

At 11 a.m., Pine Heights at Brattleboro Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation will host a discussion on "healthy aging." At 11:30 a.m., a presentation from New Chapter will address "using herbs on a daily basis."

At noon, Free Body Wellness will talk about "sustainable fitness." At 12:30 p.m., Brattleboro Memorial Hospital will have demonstrations to go along with its topic of "healthy eating."

At 1 p.m., the Retreat will discuss "restful sleep." And at 1:30 p.m., Utterly Smooth will talk "healthy skin."

Chairs and a sound system will be set up "so people can actually pay attention," Eshelman said. "It's a lot of knowledge in those presentations."

Local magician Jonas Cain will be the emcee. He will perform between speakers and entertain children during the presentations.

The Stroll is much more than the parade and expo, Eshelman said. Her organization and sponsors are constantly looking at ways of building connections, especially with farmers and agriculture-based companies.

The events evolve as the community evolves, Eshelman said.

"But it's always been about community development, development of farm-related businesses," she said. "And all of that, of course, is part of the mission of Strolling of the Heifers: To help small, sustainable farms."

Her group looks at how dedicated each state is to making healthy food available via its Locavore Index. Score factors include the number of farmers markets, food grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and community supported agriculture and farm-to-school programs.

Stroll Executive Director Orly Munzing called the index "how we track and encourage more efforts in every state to spread the benefits of healthy local foods and strong local food systems."

For the last two years, Vermont has stayed at number one and Maine has placed second. Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire and Massachusetts respectively followed behind in 2018. Texas is last this year.

The Strolling of the Heifers Street Festival on Friday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. will see a section of Main Street closed off to traffic for food and craft vendors, entertainment and dancing. Attendees can help pick the winner of the People's Choice Award for the Great New England Bundt Cake Competition inside the River Garden. The building will also host the Farm Art Show, specialty food groups and Vermont alcohol vendors.

This year's art show features "Pasture and Barnyard" by Basha Freudenberg, who includes cows in landscape paintings, and "Na ve Omnicience" by Peter K.K.Williams, who studied painting at the University of Vermont then earned a master's degree in fine arts at Johnson State College. Their work will be on display through June.

Freudenberg has drawn and painted in Vermont, Cape Cod and eastern Long Island for about 20 years. She has painted in the outdoors on local farms in all seasons and "finds beauty and peace in barn yards, pastures, orchards and hillsides wherever cows and steer graze, chew their cud and rest," according to a program for Stroll events.

Williams has painted the Vermont landscape and other features of the natural world. His works "offer the viewer peaceful respite from the overwhelming injustices that plague our fractious world," the program says.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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