We love to watch them stroll, but those heifers also inspire art
BRATTLEBORO -- Clio, Terpsichore, Calliope, Thalia, Melopomene, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Urania and Erato.
To this cattle call of the Muses, apparently you can add the name Elsie.
Cows aren't just the iconic centerpiece of the 13th annual Strolling of the Heifers, with events taking place today through Sunday. And art and entertainment aren't just along for the ride. Cows have muscled Erato aside and outmaneuvered Terpsichore as sources of creative inspiration.
Case in point is Melissa Glim who has just published a children's book inspired by the Strolling of the Heifers. "The Littlest Cow" tells the story of a little dog who wants to be just like the cows and march in the parade. When she tells the cows of her wish, she finds not only that she is scoffed at, but that all the various cows don't get along. So the plucky little dog throws a party and helps ease the tension between the different breeds of cows, and in doing so, earns her place in the parade.
Glim, who grew up in the area, is a Brattleboro Union High School alumna and whose parents run the Ranney-Crawford House Bed and Breakfast in Putney, says her love of the Strolling of the Heifers inspired the book.
"It's just so cute and so fun and such a lovely coming together of the community. I get such a big kick out of it," said Glim, who now lives in Washington, D.C., where she works as a science writer.
"The Littlest Cow" is a true family affair. Glim's cousin, Jennifer Glimcher, an artist and graduate of Bennington College, did the illustrations for the book, which is pegged for ages 3-5 but is really a good read for all of us. The inspiration for the dog came from Glim's own beloved fox terrier, Annie, who attended the first Strolling of the Heifers and politely had a great time.
"People did kid about her and said she had the same markings as a Holstein," said Glim.
Reminder -- for safety, dogs are no longer allowed at the Strolling of the Heifers.
The book, which was published through Amazon's CreateSpace, is available through Amazon and as an eBook. Glim will be at Gallery Walk on Friday and also at the Slow Living Expo after the parade on Saturday to meet with people and sell and sign books. There is also a website, www.littlestcow.com, where people can post pictures of pets and where Glim's mother, a former teacher, has created a reading guide for the book, as well.
The Heifers have also inspired visual artists, leading to, not one, but two Farm Art shows.
At The Works, 118 Main St., Brattleboro-West Arts has collaborated with the Stroll to highlight five farms -- Deer Ridge Farm, Bunker Farm, Cortland Hill Orchard, the Robb Family Farm and Franklin Farm -- that are included on the Stroll's Farm Tour.
This exhibit features a uniquely wide range of media and styles -- Fabric art by Kris McDermet, ceramics and wood construction by Walter Slowinski, woodwork by Jason Breen, sculpture/printmaking by Sharon Myers, photography by Gene Parulis, painting by Janet Picard and Steve Lloyd, ceramics by Naomi Lindenfeld and painting/sculpture by Ron Karpius.
"To the extent we can honor these farms with whatever work we do, we're honored to be involved," said Lloyd. "I think it's actually an important role the Stroll can play. It's fortunate that it's so popular because its goal is so laudable."
The Brattleboro West-Arts exhibit runs at The Works through June and then moves to the Strolling of the Heifers' home in the River Garden.
That's where the other Farm Art show, "16x16x25" continues on view. Curated by artist Caryn King, the exhibit features the work of 25 artists who each created work on a 16x16 canvas. The exhibit is on view during Gallery Walk and on Saturday morning and during normal hours, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All paintings are for sale, with proceeds benefiting the Strolling of the Heifers. Artists include Marilyn Allen, Nancy Calicchio, Trudy Crites, Alicia Drakiotes, Janet Eldridge-Taylor, Esther Fielding, Georgie, Bobbie Groves, David Howell, Mary Iselin, Caryn King, Heidi M. Lorenz, Paul Madalinski, Jim McGrath, Nancie Mclean, Steven Meyer, Meris Morrison, Scott Nelson, Janet Picard, Anne Sawyer, Lori Schreiner, Kristina Wentzell and Jen Wiechers.
The Heifers have also been Muses on the musical side. This year, the Stroll has put a special focus on its official song, "The Heifers are Coming to Town" -- did you even know they had one?
Written by Northern Vermont musician and farmer Alan Greenleaf, the song has been around since the first year of the Stroll.
"He saw a little article in the paper about it and was so touched that he wrote the song," said Strolling of the Heifers Founder and Executive Director Orly Munzing. "He's the nicest, sweetest man, and he's milked plenty of cows in his life."
Greenleaf has always been part of the Stroll. He marches at the end of the parade, playing his song and leading people up to the Common and the Retreat grounds. This year, Munzing said, it seemed fitting to put a special focus on the song.
"Now that we have the glass barn on Main Street (the River Garden), it seemed appropriate because the heifers are coming to town," said Munzing.
Greenleaf will be on hand on Friday during Gallery Walk playing with his musical mate, the Doctor. He will occupy his customary place in the parade on Saturday and also play on Sunday for the Tour de Heifer.
Providing a musical bookend for the parade, which starts promptly at 10 a.m., the BUHS Band, under the direction of Steve Rice, will be playing an arrangement of "The Heifers are Coming to Town" near the beginning.
Artistic inspiration also runs through the Slow Living Summit, which began Wednesday and runs through Friday. As part of the summit, artists were invited to collaborate closely with presenters. Everyone is invited to attend the summit's plenary sessions (a donation is requested at the door).
Plenary sessions collaborations at the Latchis include: Charles Einsenstein and cellist Euegen Frieseon on Thursday at 8:30 a.m.; investment Amit Sharma and Amy Johnquest, the Banner Queen on Thursday at 1:45 p.m.; Martin Ping with guitarist Seamus Maynard, violinist Jonathan Talbott and cellist Jonah Thomas on Friday at 8:30 a.m.; and Linda McInerney and guitarist and singer John Sheldon on Friday at 3:25 p.m. For information, visit www.slowlivingsummit.org.
Of course there's plenty of other entertainment for all ages at the Stroll.
On Friday, during Gallery Walk, with Main Street blocked off, there will be pavement chalk drawing organized by the Boys and Girls Club, eco-artist and stilt dancer Maya Apfelbaum, face painting with clown Robin Zegge, circus yoga with Bhangra, balloon magic with Wally Hagadorn and Interplay with Judith Reichsman.
On Saturday, pre-parade entertainment is provided by the New Orleans Brass Band Project, Westrio and, of course, the Dairy Godmother and her Dairy Fairies and Elves.
"We just like to get the party started and make sure everyone feels like buttah!" said Amelia Struthers, aka Dairy Godmother. "These days can make you feel like you're working all the time, but it's just as important to stop and play."
The Dairy Godmother is in close touch with the heifers, of course, and is pleased to report that "the ladies are as cowtastic as ever."
Inspired by the Stroll's move to the River Garden, the Heifers, she reports, have taken up gardening themselves.
"The Stroll got a new barn and it got them thinking that they wanted to start a farmstand," said Amelia Struthers, aka Dairy Godmother, who noted they intend to sell cow-la lilies, milk, butter and fresh cow pies.
"Gardening is a whole new element of fashion for them. There's garden hose they get to wear," said Dairy Godmother. "They'll clean up nice for the parade."
Entertainment continues after the parade at the Slow Living Expo until 4 p.m. New England Center for Circus Arts, Alotta Hoopla and Goat Olympics will be found on the Retreat grounds. In the C&S Family Tent, entertainment includes Sandglass puppets and stilt walking, Brattleboro School of Dance, Interplay, Circus Minumus and Ed the Wizard Magic Show. In the Youth Music Tent, it's the Vermont Jazz Center Youth Ensemble, Spiralia, Xpressivo, The Snaz, Shoulder Narrows, Franz Robert Band and Westrio.
In the Gazebo at the Common, entertainment features Ben Carr and the Ukeleles, Miss VerMOOnt and cow poetry, Meters for Demeter (performed spoken word celebrating agriculture, Butterfly Swing Band, The Bondville Boys and Inisheer.
For more information about all facets of the Strolling of the Heifers, visit www.strollingoftheheifers.com.
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