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September 9, 2013

 

Union Fair embodies rural life

Marathon festival celebrates community’s agricultural roots

UnionJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Civil War re-enactor Denise Rung prepares for the Marathon Union Fair parade on Saturday.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Participants in red, white and blue outfits, like 9-year-old Connor Brown atop his flag-bearing bicycle, embodied the theme “United We Stand” at the 28th annual Union Fair in Marathon.
Brown’s father, Michael, said as a “veteran and a patriot” he brought his family to the fair Saturday to embody the national theme.
Marathon resident Connie White said the fair began in 1879 as a three-day event for the Marathon Area Agricultural Society. The term Union Fair was used because it meant union of the towns in the area, she said, with nearby towns like Freetown and Harford all coming together for the event.
The parade is marked by the absence of motorized vehicles, with only animals or human-powered machines allowed to enter.
In the case of the Willis brothers of Marathon, they were taking the place of oxen they usually use to pull a wagon. Marlin Willis said he and his brothers Frank and Justin would be pulling their 85-year-old mother, Amy Homer Willis, and her great-grandchildren.
Marlin Willis said he sold his pair of oxen last year and will be getting another pair but wanted to participate despite the lack of animal power.
“It’s pretty rugged,” said Willis of the wagon that he would be pulling later.
But he said the Union Fair brings out the importance of family.
“It’s old home days, country living and family. People working together to make the past life come true,” said Willis.
He lamented the fact that more communities do not have parades like the one in Marathon.
And some participants, like Civil War re-enactors Denise and Kevin Rung, were there for the animals.
Sitting astride a Rocky Mountain Pinto named Excalibur which he rescued, Kevin Rung said the number of horses and mules that were killed in the Civil War is never mentioned.
“Nearly 700,000 human lives were lost in the course of the civil war. But 2 million horses and mules sacrificed their lives and that’s what’s important to us,” Rung said.
His wife, Denise Rung, was sitting atop Big Red, a Thoroughbred that had come through a serious injury, a broken back, years ago.
Rung was acting the part of Jenny Hart, one of the few women serving in the Civil War under disguise.
Rung said the sacrifices of women should be noted as well.
The two were going to give a saber demonstration after the parade.

 

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