Summer in Vermont kicks off in a big way this month with three festivals that draw thousands of visitors to our state. You live here, so there’s no excuse not to grab your bike or your yoga mat and plan your next weekend.
STROLLING OF THE HEIFERS: June 3 – 5
Brattleboro, Vt.; www.strollingoftheheifers.com
Sixteen years ago, Orly Munzing was walking on an old logging road in Dummerston, Vt. and came upon her neighbor, Dwight Miller tending his orchard. When Munzing asked if he needed a hand, instead of handing her a rake or a pair of clippers, Miller asked her to spread the word about the difficulties many farmers faced and to encourage others to support their local food producers. “He said to take a good look because in ten years you won’t see this,” she recalls. What started with one conversation with a neighbor was the spark for a yearly event that draws tens of thousands for a weekend of celebrating where food comes from and the Tour De Heifer, a series of rides on dirt roads.
The Vibe: Munzing says. “It’s the most fun and family-friendly agricultural Mardi Gras you can imagine. You have to see it to believe it.”
Who Goes: Everyone. As many as 50,000 people may line the sidewalks for Saturday morning parade. Sunday’s bike rides attract local riders who regularly tackle the winding dirt roads and weekend visitors looking for an alternative to riding on pavement.
The Setting: The home of the Holstein Association of America, which tracks the genealogy of every Holstein in North America, Brattleboro frequently makes national lists of top places to live or travel to, While the parade and its related events are in downtown Brattleboro, Sunday’s Tour De Heifer has a more pastoral setting. Lilac Ridge Farm, located just a few miles from the hum of downtown is a certified organic farm on 600 acres that serves as both the start and finish and the location of afternoon’s post-ride picnic. The shortest route is an out-and-back 15-mile ride on rolling paved and gravel roads to the Green River Bridge. The intermediate 30-mile ride winds south into the towns of Guilford and Halifax before a monster climb up Moss Hollow Road in Marlboro past Marlboro College and descending back down to the Lilac Ridge Farm. For the toughest riders, the 60-mile ride dips all the way into Massachusetts and makes a rocky return by way of hilly and rugged gravel roads.
Don’t Miss: Saturday’s parade begins with farm animals of every kind leading the marchers. Aside from the Guernseys and Holsteins, expect to see oxen, goats, pigs, llamas and more strolling up Main Street. “It’s a big Noah’s Ark, Munzing says.
What You Could Learn: Before the cows start walking, sit in on the Strolling of the Heifers Slow Living Summit, a forum of experts who explore topics of nourishment, wellness, food entrepreneurship, food systems, food justice and food policy. Speakers include Fred “Chico” Lager, ex-CEO of Ben & Jerry’s; Cairn Cross, co-founder and managing director of Fresh Tracks Capital, Will Rapp, founder of Gardener’s Supply; Anna Dawson, founder of Hometown Foods LLC, and others
Strangest Thing: Keep your eye out for the “Dairy Godmother,” who circulates around the event and the volunteers dressed as flies who follow behind the cows, armed with shovels and sawdust for any clean up.
The Party: At the Sustainable Living Expo following the parade, you’ll find 11 acres of fun, food and exhibits including local food producers and craftspeople. Plus, the four separate entertainment tents host every kind of live music including rock and roll, funk, New Orleans brass, folk and of course dancing. Marvel at performers from the New England Center for Circus Arts, place your bets at the goat racing or watch the crowning of Miss VerMOOnt.