Thousands enjoy Strolling of the Heifers
On the first Saturday in June in Brattleboro hundreds of volunteers do everything from parking cars, to playing in bands, to cleaning up after the cows as they stroll up Main Street.
This year Cobe Mager was tasked with handing out lollipops and water in front of the Costello, Valente & Gentry law office on Main Street.
Cobe, 11, had his game face on early Saturday before the parade began. He was taking his responsibility so seriously that he was into his third lollipop before the first heifer walked by, a full bag at his feet, and ready with a bowl full of candy to pass on.
Cobe said he has been coming to every Strolling of the Heifers parade over the last seven years, even those that were held in the cold rain, but this was the first year he took on the job of handing out lollipops.
"This is my first year," he said, as he chewed up the final pieces of a lemon Dum Dum. "When someone goes by we're going to give out free water and lollipops."
Saturday was a perfect day for a parade as thousands of people lined the streets of Brattleboro for the 13th annual Strolling of the Heifers Parade and Slow Living Expo.
Thirteen years ago Orly Munzing, the parade's founder, had an idea to march farm animals up Main Street to bring attention to the importance of farming in Vermont and to celebrate sustainability and local food.
A few hundred people came out that year, and now the Stroll and Slow Living Summit is a five-day affair which draws people from around the country to Brattleboro.
The parade has floats, local bands and non-profit organizations, like any other parade, but in between there are tractors, alpacas, goats and heifers, and most of the groups embrace the sustainability and local food message in their outfits and signs.
Terry Fritz lives in Kintnersville, Penn., and has a summer house in the area.
He showed up early Saturday morning, at around 8 a.m., to claim a prime spot in the shade and on a slight hill near the Windham County Courthouse. With his blankets staking out his real estate, and waiting for the rest of his group, Fritz said it was the second year he was attending the parade and Slow Living Expo.
"We planned our trip around this," said Fritz. "It's fun to see the people, it's fun to see the animals, and it's a good excuse to come up to Brattleboro.
" Fritz, who was wearing the Strolling of the Heifers shirt he bought last year, said he was not necessarily a big fan of parades, but he said there is something special about Brattleboro's celebration of agriculture, sustainability and slow living.
"This is special. It has a lot of the easy going things I like about parades and not some of the formality that seems a bit too military for me," he said, adding that cheering on heifers was something he could get behind. "But not too close behind them," he joked.
Like the parade itself, the Slow Living Expo, which is held on the Brattleboro Common and on the grounds of the Brattleboro Retreat, has also grown.
As the parade winds down, the crowds follow the last tractors and bands up Main Street and swarm the expo, which includes farm machinery, sustainable energy exhibits, crafts, music, activities for children and plenty of food vendors.
The lines were long at many of the food carts, which included vendors selling natural hot dogs and wood-fired pizza and of others giving away free samples of cheese, sausage and yogurt.
Katie Lahey, from Newfane, was there with her two-and-a-half-year-old son Wesley, who was lounging in a stroller.
Lahey was making it a short day Saturday because she plans on giving birth to Wesley's brother in July and she said Wesley might have to give up his stroller space to the baby.
The family comes every year, and Lahey said next year she'll probably come back, baby in tow, for another Stroll.
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