With patients in mind, expo finds new venues

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BRATTLEBORO — Out of concern for its patients, the Brattleboro Retreat will no longer host the annual Slow Living Expo after the Strolling of the Heifers.

"The presence of thousands of people enjoying multiple colorful, and sometimes noisy, activities has become disruptive to our patients, many of whom are acutely ill and become agitated and upset during SOTH festivities," Konstantin von Krusenstiern, vice president of development and communication of the Retreat, said in an email. "For instance, due to safety concerns and regulatory matters, Retreat inpatients and children and adolescents in residential programs are unable to go outside and participate in the festival."

Instead, activities during the June 8, 2019 event will be on the Brattleboro Common and space offered at the American Legion Brattleboro Post 5 and the law office of Corum Mabie Cook Prodan Angell Secrest & Darrow.

"Those are secure," Stroll Executive Director Orly Munzing said. "We're working on other parking lots on Linden Street."

Items including tents will still be stored on Retreat grounds.

Retreat's priority

Krusenstiern said Retreat administration has been in discussions with Stroll officials for the last two years about the use of the property for the Slow Living Expo.

"After 15 years of service as a host site for the annual Expo, the Brattleboro Retreat has come to the conclusion that we can no longer make available our campus grounds and infrastructure for a public event as large and complex as SOTH," he wrote in an email. "We met with the SOTH leadership in July 2017 and we all agreed that the 2018 Slow Living Expo would be the last on Retreat grounds."

It was not an easy decision, Krusenstiern said, but it had to do with the Retreat's "priority as a psychiatric hospital to safeguard our primary function as a restorative and therapeutic environment for our patients. The impressive growth of SOTH over the past number of years has, unfortunately, become increasingly incompatible with the needs of our patients."

Krusenstiern said the event also forced a "concurrent closure" of the Retreat's Hub program, which provides outpatient treatment for opioid users seven days a week. That affected the clinical care of about 125 patients, he said.

"While the Retreat can no longer offer logistical support to the Strolling of the Heifers and related activities, we are grateful to have had the opportunity since 2002 to partner with SOTH in their important mission to promote agriculture, entrepreneurship and education in Vermont," Krusenstiern added.

Creating space

John Hagen, commander for Post 5, said his group will be moving its parking elsewhere to support booths and activities.

"We lead the parade anyway so it was fitting for us," he said. "We see this as a great collaboration."

Last week, his group unanimously approved supporting the Slowing Living Summit via the request to use its property at 32 Linden St.

"We are looking forward to working with the team at the River Garden to sustain Brattleboro's iconic event," Hagen said.

He said the legion sees itself as a valued and active member of the Brattleboro community and its members are proud to step forward to help with the event.

Attorney Joe Cook noted the event is on a Saturday.

"And of course, our office is not open so we're more than happy to make it available," he said of the 0.24-acre property his group's office is on at 45 Linden St. "We're happy to offer the space so close to downtown."

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

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