The coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside down — now it’s in reverse. The 2021 June Dairy Parade had a different look to it Tuesday, when residents viewed the event from their cars.
Floats, marching bands and dancing cows lined both sides of south Main Street in Cortland. The parade was stationary while cars drove past and pedestrians traveled the sidewalks.
“This is completely different from past years, but I think it went really well,” said Andrea Niggli, co-organizer and member of the Dairy Promotion Committee. “We didn’t know what to expect, but the people came and they seemed to enjoy it.”
Niggli and Tess Southern, co-organizer of the event and member of the Dairy Promotion Committee, started putting the “reverse” dairy parade together nearly two months ago. About 30 floats were originally scheduled to participate, and hundreds of people joined the trail of cars and pedestrians.
Driving at a speed of about 7 mph — it took only about 10 minutes to drive through the entire parade — a pace that allowed for the dairy princesses and ambassadors to shout greetings to the drivers as they passed.
“Our goal is just to introduce farming to the people out there, not only what we do but they get to experience it,” said Mandi Waltz, a Cortland County dairy ambassador. “We’re getting the word out there to support the farmers.”
Looking down either direction of Main Street, dozens of parade participants were dressed as cows to celebrate National Dairy Month. One group of children danced in their piebald onesies to “Baby Cow,” a parody of the popular children’s song “Baby Shark.”
Truxton Academy Charter School pupils learned a song and dance about where milk comes from, and the health benefits of dairy.
“We have a focus on agriculture as part of a project-based learning curriculum, and we have partnerships with some of the local dairies,” said Sara Petit-McClure, head of the Truxton Academy, which has a focus on agriculture education. “We’ve participated in the dairy parade for quite a few years, I think it’s a great event and I’m glad that we were able to be a part of it.”
Petit-McClure’s children Amira and Phoenix, ages 9 and 7 respectively, said their favorite parts of the parade were getting to ring cowbells for the song, and watching the Marathon High School marching band perform across the street.
“Seeing families that we know come through to support the dairy parade is just so nice,” Niggli said. “The dairy industry in Cortland County is a very strong industry and is one that we need to support fully. We employ a lot of people and we do a lot of good in the county.”
During the pandemic, many farmers continued with their daily tasks even though restaurants and schools closed down, causing a glut in one part of the market while a surge in retail demand caused shortages elsewhere, Niggli said.
“Even when others had to stop, they were able to keep going,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to see that in this community, that we have such a strong dairy industry.”