The Suitcase Lady


June 14, 2016, 9:56 pm

It takes a lot to induce us to get up at dawn on a Saturday morning. Weekends aren’t meant for rushing around and keeping schedules. But last Saturday we got up early and hit the road in record time. The goat parade was starting at 10:30, was happening 100 miles north and we weren’t going to miss it.

From June to late fall, some extremely happy and pampered goats graze on the grass roof of Al Johnson’s Swedish restaurant in Sister Bay, Door County, Wisconsin. The tradition began many decades ago when a friend of Al Johnson gave him a gag birthday gift. With the help of a ladder, the friend put a goat on the restaurant roof.

Townspeople and restaurant patrons alike loved the goats whose numbers have expanded over the years. Now, every morning in season, the goats come to town in a pick up truck from their comfy barn a few miles away. The barn is also the site of their winter vacation.

The annual “Roofing of the Goats” parade marking the return of the goats after winter is a big deal in Sister Bay. Crowds turn out for it and all goats in the community are invited. The actual parade is one block long, has one float, no bands and lasts 10 minutes. It is charming….the perfect antidote to everything in our culture that is super sized and commercialized.

Traffic on the main highway through town is stopped so goats of all sizes on leashes can parade down the road to the restaurant. They are then led to the back of the building where stairs and ramps go up to the grassy roof.

“Rookie goats”, tiny kids having their first roof experience, are especially loved. One was guided up the ramps by its owner and gently set in the lush grass. The kid promptly let out a loud BAAAAAAA, hopefully of delight.

After the goats are settled and grazing, many of the spectators pile into the restaurant for a breakfast of Swedish pancakes and lingonberries. As with most celebrations, everybody ends up eating.



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