The Strolling of the Heifers: A Stroll Through the Ages

Each June, just as the leaves return to the Green Mountains, Brattleboro gets cow-crazy for a pre-summer tradition: The Strolling of the Heifers. If you didn’t already know, this world-famous Brattleboro festival is like a mellow version on Spain’s Running of the Bulls. Dozens of heifers (cows that have yet to birth a calf, if you don’t know our Vermont lingo) march up Main Street during a weekend of live music, entertainment, and locally-sourced fare.

The Strolling of the Heifers in Brattleboro, VT.
Photo: Jeffrey M. Lewis

To keep it fresh, parade organizers cook up a new theme each year. These themes can get pretty Vermont-y, ranging from Women in Agriculture to Drawing Your Mooovements. In the spirit of Brattleboro’s biggest cow-fest, take a stroll down memory lane with this list of notable heifer parades.

2002: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

It’s the stroll that started it all. The inaugural parade was put on by a group of civic leaders and farmers to help bring attention to the small family farms in the Brattleboro area (and, at the same time, celebrate the start of National Dairy Month). More than 10,000 people showed up to watch the first heifers trot down Main Street.

2004: CATTLE AND CAMELS

The Strolling of the Heifers in 2004. Photo: Sherry Russell.

The crowds had grown substantially by the time of the 2004 parade, with tens of thousands of folks coming in from outside Brattleboro to get in on the heifer action. The herd of cattle at this year’s stroll had some company — kids were able to take camel-back rides down at the Brattleboro Common following the parade.

2009: THE GREEN EXPO

The Green Expo at the Strolling of the Heifers in 2009. Photo: Jason Henske.

By 2009, Stroll Weekend had grown to include another farm-tastic feature: the Green Expo, located on the Brattleboro Common. Here, stroll-goers can meet local leaders on energy conservation, green construction methods, and local efforts for sustainable living.

2010: HEIFERS ON WHEELS?

To our dismay, we’ve yet to witness a heifer ride a bicycle. However, the 2010 Stroll Weekend did feature the first Tour de Heifer, a tradition that continues to this day. On the Sunday of Stroll Weekend, cyclists can choose between 30 and 60 mile challenge routes, or take it a little easier and ride a 15-mile scenic trail by the West River.

2013: RUNNING OF THE BULLS MEETS MARDI GRAS

Colorful masks, beads, and sequins made for one of the most memorable Stroll Weekend themes of all time: Running of the Bulls Meets Mardi Gras. Try as you may, you can’t help but smile when heifers dressed like Mardi Gras revelers cross your path.

2016: THE G.O.A.T. (OLYMPICS)

Fourteen years after Main Street saw its first-ever batch of parading heifers, the crowds at the Strolling of the Heifers grew from 10,000 to at least 50,000 (we haven’t dared to try counting). The larger-than-life afterparty on the Brattleboro Common saw some udder chaos in the form human foosball and a goat Olympics.

The 2016 Strolling of the Heifers. Photo: Jeffrey M. Lewis.

There’s a reason the Stroll has made five appearances on the Green Mountain State’s Top Ten Summer Events list (though it tops our Latchis list every year). At the end of each march, everyone gets a chance to join the parade and follow the heifers down to a spirited summer kick-off. It’s a Brattleboro tradition that does more than just fill our bellies and hearts — it embodies everything we love about our town.