One day, when my daughter is an elderly woman living with her three widowed or divorced friends in a Florida condo, she’s going to tell them endless stories about the quirky little hamlet in the middle of nowhere where she grew up. And the most unbelievably Rose Nylundish of all the stories will begin, “Every year, we would have The Strolling of the Heifers, where all the farmers would walk their cows down Main Street in a parade…”
Yes, it’s actually true, people come from far and wide to watch the cows walk down Main Street the first Saturday in June.
We always kick off the Heifer weekend with the Friday night gallery walk, where they close down several blocks of downtown and it is turned into a huge street fair with food carts, performers, musicians, and a blocks long DIY chalk mural sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club.
Since The Strolling of the Heifers was begun to raise awareness and support for local agriculture and small-scale farming, it’s only fitting that the pizza oven cart advertises their wares based on the local wholesomeness of their flour.
The next morning the whole town (and several thousand tourists) gather to watch the cows and their compatriots.
The cows are quite sweet and groomed to their prettiest, but my favorite thing about the parade is the way the local culture creeps in.
Ya got the local food co-op, the place that literally stocks more than two dozen types of granola in their bulk section, if that gives you an idea of the place, doing grocery cart choreography down the street.
Ya got the pee composters.
Ya got the circus performers. This place is rife with circus people, due to the awesome New England Center for Circus Arts.
Ya got the grade school bands, featuring Bessie on maracas.
And don’t forget the local youth thespians. No shortage of quirky, creative kiddos around here.
I can’t describe how charmed I was when we had just moved here and went to our first First Friday. My husband and I used to go to a fair amount of gallery opening First Fridays when we lived in Chicago and the scene was 99% twenty-something hipsters and 1% actual art buying people. In Brattleboro the “galleries” are local businesses who display a rotating selection of artwork by local artists. The First Friday crowd is a completely mixed bag of middle-aged, elderly, young people, little kids, and amazingly, packs of free-roaming teens and tweens. And I think I might have maybe once seen a singular hipster. (Now that there’s a whole lumberjack/homesteader chic thing going on it’s hard to tell but I’d like to think after 14 years on the north side of Chicago I can tell the difference between ironic flannel and sincere flannel.) Anyway, my whole point is, it was so heart-lifting to imagine that in 12 years our kids would be wandering Main Street on gallery night hoping to bump into their crush, or whatever those packs of kids are doing there, rather than all the stuff that you hope your 14-year-old isn’t doing but let’s face it they probably are. Except here! (she said, batting her eyes in hopeful naiveté…)
The parade was closed, as is every local parade, with our town mascot, Alfred Hughes.
You might think that cattle farms and flamboyant cross-dressers don’t go together but you would be oh so wrong. Not only is Alfred an excellent beef farm float participant, he is also the Independence Day Parade Marshall, for which he always wears a magnificent ball gown, Santa’s sparkly elf at the municipal Photos with Santa event, and a beloved nursery school teacher.
So that’s Strolling of the Heifers, in an extremely long-winded nutshell. Just a bunch of cows, hippies, and wackos walking through the town. Sure do love this place.