September 12, 2016
Marathon returns to 1890 with Union Fair
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Pam Russell, of Marathon, waves at parade entrants Saturday with her granddaughters Keelyn, 6, left, and Delaney Reilly, 8, right, at the Marathon Union Fair.
MARATHON — Walter Vinson walked alongside Sally, his 32-year-old quarter horse, during Saturday’s 1890 Union Fair parade while his 2-year-old daughter, Juliana, rode in the saddle, dressed as a Native American.
It was Juliana’s first time participating in the fair. But the annual event was very familiar to her 35-year-old father, who was a regular participant for years as a child, riding Sally down the same route on Main Street, past the high school, civic center, shops and his family, friends and neighbors.
“It’s amazing to do this with my daughter,” he said. “It is something to share.”
Vinson recalled that he had routinely won blue ribbons for his participation in the parade and he hoped Juliana, wearing a costume made from a pillowcase dyed in coffee, would win her own blue ribbon riding the same horse.
“I got her when I was very young,” Vinson said of his horse as he escorted Sally and Juliana along Brink Street, heading back after competing to Lovell Field, where the parade had stepped off at noon.
Sisters Pam Russell and Gloria Wiley, both of Marathon, sat on a bench along Main Street near the gazebo outside Marathon High School as Russell’s daughters, Keelyn and Delaney Reilly, ages 6 and 8, respectively, fluttered between the bench and the Main Street curb.
“We come every year,” Russell said. “We bring them every year to support everyone in the parade. We talk with them about the times in 1890. The tradition continues.”
The 1890 Union Fair is a revival of a long-ago community fair. The parade does not allow motorized entrees, in a nod to the era for which the fair is named. The original Union Fair dates back to 1879. The tradition died off after many years, but was renewed in the 1980s.
This year’s parade was dedicated to the late Nancy McEvoy Cornell. Her brother, Charlie McEvoy, and his wife, Carolyn, served as grand marshals.
The fair is a big undertaking, Russell said. “Everyone is involved in some way.”
Delaney said the ice cream is her favorite part, while sister Keelyn was undecided.
The girls stood by the curb and they and Russell and Wiley waved as cousin John Best, of DeRuyter, trotted past on his horse.
Other activities filled Lovell Field and other sites.
After the parade, a committee gathered in the Civic Center to choose the winners in several categories, as similar committees had done through the years.
Among those receiving blue ribbons was Juliana Vinson — for individual horse rider — just as her father had three decades earlier.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe