DAYTONA NILES/NNY BUSINESS Jay Matteson is the agricultural coordinator for Jefferson County Economic Development.

In March of 2020, our world was turned upside down with the global pandemic. A microscopic virus spread around the earth, making people very sick, and sadly, too many friends and family members were lost. The global pandemic shut down entire economies, kept children at home and changed lifestyles. Lines at food pantries grew to span several blocks, sometimes miles. It became a world we have never known in our lifetimes and had never really expected to see happen. And yet, we were there…

There were industries that stayed open despite this unseen danger that rapidly spread across our planet, yet our food system had to stay open. Despite the pandemic hitting our food distribution system hard, the industry was vigilant and kept going. Our dairy farms in Northern New York took precautions to avoid transmission of the virus and our dairy processors went as far as hiring and training up extra shifts to be prepared for problems. It was phenomenal to see the dogged perseverance of the farmers and processors to keep the food flowing to the people.

As much as our agricultural industry remained open, we recognize there are others who stared into the eyes of the unknown and faced the possibility of this menace invading their bodies, potentially threatening their existence. These brave men and women are our emergency first responders and front-line health care providers. They went towards the danger and took care of our communities. They saw how the virus could ravage those most susceptible to its impacts and still helped us.

It is to each of these brave women and men that we in the dairy industry, and agriculture, raise our glass and toast, “This Milk is For You!” It is simple, and yet poignant. It is what we give to you. We are dedicating what we normally look upon as our month, June as “Dairy Month”, to you. Here is what we are planning!

The Jefferson County Dairy Parade is scheduled for Friday, June 4 commencing at 7 p.m. from Watertown High School and traveling into the city on Washington Street, ending on Clinton Street. We will begin the parade by sending a lone bagpiper out on the parade route. The piper will play Amazing Grace the entire route. This will be a moment of remembrance for those we lost to the pandemic. We encourage the public to bring a candle, or light of some type and light the way for our bagpiper. If you want to bring a picture of a friend or family member, please do. Hold it up for all to see as the bagpiper passes. This will be a moment of healing for our community.

Then, we emerge into a celebration and praise for our first responders and health care providers who took care of us! The parade features all the usual agricultural displays and we hope every fire department, law enforcement agency, and ambulance squad will provide some representative entry into the dairy parade. We invite every hospital and health care service to enter our parade, in some fashion, so our community has the opportunity to see you and say thank you for what you did. We encourage the public watching the parade to have their children bring homemade signs that say “Thank you!” Have fun with it, celebrate our perseverance and community!

And we would be remiss if we did not request your help in keeping everyone safe at the parade! Bessie the cow will be encouraging everyone to “Mooove Over and keep two cow lengths between your family and the next!” Bessie will also be saying “Cow-A-Bunga, dude, wear your mask when you can’t socially distance.” We strongly encourage you to follow all the safety guidelines. We do not want you to contract the virus at the dairy parade. But the responsibility is yours to stay safe. NBC Watertown will live stream the parade so you can watch from home, or if you are at the parade, hear our announcer, “Country Kurt” talk about the parade entries! There will not be a judging stand or public announcement system in front of the Dulles State Office Building. The indoor Dairy Festival at the Dulles State Office building has been cancelled for 2021. Come, or watch from home, and make sure you stay safe either way.

To learn more about the parade, our celebration, or to enter the parade, please visit, https://www.agricultureevents.com/june-dairy-parade-and-festival. Our live stream of the parade will be available at https://www.facebook.com/dairyfestandparade.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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