The summer calendar begins with Memorial Day even though the season starts on the solstice. Here in the West River Valley of southern Vermont, my summer calendar is filled with local events, fairs and festivals celebrated each year in our community.
Around here, summer starts on the first weekend in June, with the Strolling of the Heifers, best known as a cow parade up Brattleboro’s Main Street, but which includes so much more, from a Friday night street fair, a celebration of local food, information about energy efficiency and a slow-living symposium. With an emphasis on farming, this is a celebration of delicious, local food.
The rest of June is filled with tasks related to the garden, poultry and orchard, and for preparing for visits from family and out-of-town guests, which continue all summer long. Some guests time their visits to coincide with these summer celebrations, like the Wardsboro Fourth of July parade and street fair. This is a personal favorite and where I had Rose Mayer and Percy Mendell first meet. They’re the 64-year-old stars of my novel, Into the Wilderness set in the fictional small town of Orton, in 1964.
The weekend following the Fourth, we bike the Tour de Grace Bike Rally, a seventeen-mile ride downhill from Stratton to Townshend. It’s a delightful ride on back roads and a trail that passes a nest where bald eagles return every year to raise young. It’s also a benefit for the local hospital where my husband works.
By the third week of July, I’m ready to cool off in the Rock River, which runs by my house, but not before I visit my remarkably talented neighbors who open their studios for The Rock River Artists Studio Tour. This is a chance for an intimate glimpse of Vermont when the public is invited to visit these artists’ beautiful studios, view their new work, and chat with the artists and other visitors on the tour.
After working up an appetite on a tour, there’s a fantastic community dinner in the Williamsville Hall at the end of the day. And now there’s also dining at the Williamsville Eatery, where locally grown, delicious artisan food is served in the old General Store.
We mark the season’s mid-point on Hospital Fair Day, a celebration of Grace Cottage, Vermont’s smallest hospital, always held on the first Saturday in August. It was at this event in 1984 that I was introduced to the man I’ve now been married to for thirty years. And good soul that he is, he’s been dressing in a stork costume to lead the Baby Parade ever since. In addition to the parade, there’s lots of Good Stuff for sale, either at the White Elephant booth or at the Auction, which runs all day, as does Bingo. There are plants for sale, art on display, and tickets for the chicken barbeque to take home or eat on the Townshend town common as the Grafton Coronet Band plays.
Even on weekends where there aren’t fairs, there are many musical events, from the famous Marlboro Music Festival (where Rose and Percy continue to dislike one another), The Yellow Barn, and the Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival tucked up in the West River Valley.
There are also often mid-week outdoor concerts up and down the valley throughout the summer, which we catch as we can. And the spectacular suppers that showcase the local fruits in season at Dummerston’s Evening Star Grange: Strawberry Supper (shortcake), Blueberry Supper (pie), and Peach Supper (cobbler). Their famous Apple Pie Festival takes place in October, during foliage, which is the one season in Vermont that’s even shorter than summer.
Summer winds down with the Bondville Fair, which I’ve yet to attend, but by the end of August, my attention is focused on preserving the harvest and assessing what needs to be done to get ready for that longest of Vermont seasons: winter.
Deborah Lee Luskin is the award-winning author of Into the Wilderness, a love story, set in Vermont during the Goldwater – Johnson presidential campaign in 1964. She blogs Wednesdays – Please subscribe: Just enter your address in the box on the right, click “subscribe” and then check your email to confirm your subscription. Thanks.