Strolling of the Heifers: History
In 2001, a concerned group of civic leaders and farmers came together to organize an annual event during the first weekend of June, which also is the beginning of National Dairy Month. Their efforts led to the first Strolling of the Heifers Parade in 2002, and the event has been held annually since then. The event has been named one of the Green Mountain State’s Top Ten Summer Events each year.
The name of the event and the organization was inspired by the famous annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, but features heifers (young female cows) being led through the streets by children—followed by farmers, future farmers, cows, bulls, horses, goats, poultry, floats, tractors, bands, clowns, and much more.
From the beginning, a Dairy Festival featuring food, music, dancing, educational displays, vendors and children’s activities has been held immediately following the parade on the grounds of the Brattleboro Retreat. In 2008, and additional component, the Green Expo, was added on the Brattleboro Common. It features vendors and organizations involved in all forms of green living, including energy conservation and sustainable building methods.
Over the years, other events added to “Strolling Weekend,” including recognition events for farmers, women in agriculture, and 4H youth on Friday evening, the Royal Farmers Feast, a Sunday-morning breakfast featuring local products at the Brattleboro’s Royal Chelsea Diner, and self-guided farm tours on Sunday.
Each year, Strolling of the Heifers has awarded grants to schools, teachers and local organizations for projects that raise young people’s awareness about the important role family-owned farms and agriculture play in our area’s economy and way of life. Cumulatively these grants total more than $140,000.
In 2008, Strolling of the Heifers embarked on a major new initiative by launching the Microloan Fund for New England Farmers, which addresses the problems that New England farmers often have in obtaining financing for farm projects by making loans in amounts from $1,000 to $10,000.
The Microloan Fund was kicked off in September, 2008 by two Farm Relief benefit concerts featuring legendary folksinger Pete Seeger, his grandson Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, and bluesman Guy Davis. The artists generously donated their services, and along with grants from the Thomas Thompson Trust and Green Mountain Roasters, the concerts helped raise more than $60,000 to initiate the fund.