September 13, 2010
America on parade
Marathon 1890 Union Fair celebrates love of country
MARATHON — An elderly man dressed in military attire quietly wiped his eyes with a handkerchief as an aged horse marched by him Saturday to the tune of Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag.”
The 32-year old Arabian/quarter-horse mix brought up the rear of the 1890 Union Fair Parade, obeying her rider’s commands, though deaf from age.
From the saddle, Marathon resident Cheryl Leet held a flag high as she gently guided her family horse Mariah.
Spectators rose and watched the flag’s progression. Many wiped tears from their eyes.
“I wanted to represent what today stands for, the armed services and men and women fighting over here and abroad,” Leet said after the parade ended.
The tribute seemed fitting, given Saturday’s theme for the event — “Love of Country” — and the day marked the nine-year anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Union Fair parade was the highlight of the day for many.
“We came for the parade,” Phoenix resident Ken Miner said later in the day.
Miner and his wife, Marti, said they enjoyed the spectacle, the likes of which he had never seen before.
“It was the first time I’ve seen a chicken in a parade, unless it’s been seasoned and cooked,” Miner said, referring to one parade participant who carried their show chicken.
The parade does not allow motorized vehicles and participants display their livestock and family pets, pausing before the judges for an individual introduction to the crowd.
The Union Fair has been an annual event in Marathon since 1984, when it resumed after a long hiatus.
In 1879, the Marathon Union Agricultural Society began the fair, what was then a three-day event. The fair continued to be held until the early 1900s on what was then known as Brink’s Flats. Today that area is known as Lovell Field.
Jerry Hults, a Marathon native who now lives in Georgia, started the parade up again in 1984.
He wanted to continue the theme of the era in which it began.
“It was called the 1890 Fair, with period dress, horse-drawn carriages and old fashioned judging,” Hults said.
Hults asked local resident Connie White to take over coordinating the event in 1985.
White said the event is a way for the largely agricultural community to showcase its livestock, quilts, produce or homemade toys and clothes.
Jane Kristensson, dressed in an 1890s-style dress she made, rode by White Saturday morning on a buggy drawn by her Haflinger horse, Velda.
Kristensson, who recently learned to drive the buggy, said she now loves the activity, though the switch from saddle to cart took getting used to.
“We have friends who drive and we go almost every weekend,” Kristensson said.
She later appeared in the parade, though she is still recovering from a fall that broke her shoulder in June.
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