Strolling of the Heifers: Most enthusiastic cheers were for Sanders

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BRATTLEBORO, VT. — Crowds cheered the young heifers that marched up Main Street Saturday during the Strolling of the Heifers parade.

Supporters of local organizations drove on tractors and rode on floats, marching bands played music and as the steady progression made its way through Brattleboro the thousands who lined the street waved and yelled.

But towards the end of the parade the loudest and most enthusiastic cheers, by far, went to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is a candidate for President of the United States.

Sanders has marched in just about every Strolling of the Heifers parade over the past 14 years, and he is a long-time supporter of the organization.

Saturday was different.

With a few industrious salesmen hawking Bernie Sanders buttons and tee-shirts, national and international media in tow, and supporters waving banners, the presidential candidate's appearance brought a heightened sense of celebrity to the otherwise-humble celebration of agriculture and local food.

"What we're celebrating today is not just Vermont agriculture, and our desire to preserve family farms in Vermont and all over this country" Sanders said. "We're celebrating community. We're celebrating people coming together, making sure that everybody has a stake in the world that we're living in."

Sanders made his way up Main Street, waving and smiling, and recognizing old friends in the crowd.

After the parade he spoke briefly to a large crowd that had gathered on the Brattleboro Common to hear him.

"We're not going to leave people behind," Sanders said toward the end of speech Saturday. "We're going to make sure that our people and our kids have decent jobs, a decent education, decent health care, and that the food we eat is healthy, and that it's local."

Strolling of the Heifers founder Orly Munzing introduced Sanders, and she stood on stage with him as he gave his short speech.

Munzing told a story about meeting Sanders in Brattleboro before the first parade, when the concept was just an idea for Munzing. Sanders was supportive from the start, Munzing said, and the then-congressman encouraged Munzing to move ahead to seek support and hold a parade in Brattleboro supporting agriculture.

"The Strolling of the Heifers wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the wonderful, president-elect, Bernie Sanders," Munzing said. "He gave me his cards, and he gave me his staff cards, and he gave me the courage and I can't thank him enough because it's become such a community oriented event, and it's all because of Bernie Sanders.

Sanders announced in late April that he would seek the Democratic nomination for President.

On May 25 he made a formal announcement in Burlington and he has been making appearances around New Hampshire, Iowa and other early primary states.

After the parade Saturday, Sanders was whisked away by his staff, and by a Brattleboro police officer, who led him out of town for a 1 p.m. appearance in Keene N.H.

His next appearance, according to his website, is on Friday, June 12, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

"Our country belongs to all of us, and not just to a handful of billionaires," Sanders said toward the end of his speech. "Thank you, Brattleboro, for the support you have given me in the past and we are going to go forward together."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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