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September 08, 2008

 

Union Fair bright spot on gray day

Annual event celebrates Marathon heritage

Union Fair

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Olivia Adams, 4, of Homer’s Over the Hill Riders keeps her pony steady Saturday as participants in the Marathon 1890 Union Fair line up for a rainy-day parade.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

MARATHON — For Marathon residents such as Judy Wales, who has lived in the small town since 1949, not even Saturday’s gray skies and persistent rain could keep her from attending the annual 1890 Union Fair.
“I come to see all the people get together. You get to see people you don’t see that year unless there’s a function,” said Wales, whose favorite part of the event is the baking contest and the garden exhibition, which she called “informative.”
This fair, which was first held in 1890 and picked up again several years ago, features exhibits of baked goods, flowers, garden stock, a quilt show and a traditional parade through the village in which no motorized vehicles take part.
This year’s parade began on Main Street with two-and four-legged participants staying upbeat despite their dampened hair and fur.
The spirited parade was the first for a 10-year-old donkey, named Chester who was brought to the fair by his owner, Jeannine Roe of Marathon.
Chester’s ears poked through a straw hat designed especially for him as Roe told of how she won him with a $400 bid at an auction in Cincinnatus eight years ago. Jeannine’s husband, Ralph, did not know of the new family pet until Jeannine directed him to clear out their barn one day and the trailer arrived with Chester on board.
But he’s gotten used to the idea of having a hoofed pet, saying “he’s a part of the family now.”
A black pot-bellied pig named Spam, was another curious animal, her nose constantly sniffing the air from her perch atop a cart. Fairmont resident Betty Lennon stood guard over her prized pig, whom she described as sweet and smart.
For the more historically oriented attendees, the fair also provided insight into some noteworthy aspects of the village’s past.
Village Historian Patty McConnell stood in Marathon’s former Baptist church, a structure that dates back to 1861 and the future home of the historical society.
She said the fair used to be a three-day event and has always featured important community accomplishments.
Jim Rienhardt, a professor of astronomy at Broome Community College, stood by an exhibit on Lewis Swift, an American astronomer best known for his discovery of the Swift Tuttle comet in 1863.
Swift discovered this comet a year after moving to Marathon, where he built an observatory and where he is buried today.
Rienhardt explained a comet is a “big chunk of ice and rock,” which is visible to people on earth when it comes close enough to the sun causing the frozen gases to melt. The Perseid Meteor Shower, which occurs every August is due to the earth orbiting through the leftover debris from that Swift Tuttle comet, Rienhardt said.
Event organizer Connie White said last year’s fair drew such a crowd it packed Main Street but that the rain this year “made history.”
“It has never rained on our parade before,” White said.
The spirits of those in attendance did not seem to be dampened from the looks of parade participants and cheerful onlookers.

 

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