September 14, 2009
Marathon trots out agrarian life
Village’s annual 1890 fair plays host to all things unmotorized
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Parade Grand Marshals Corky Brown and his wife, Barbara, guide their horse-drawn carriage down Main Street Saturday for the Marathon 1890 Union Fair parade.
MARATHON — Two immense black Percheron mares shook their studded leather collars and champed at their bits Saturday, impatiently waiting their turn to march onto Main Street in the 1890 Union Fair parade.
The horses, 4-year-old Linda and 5-year-old Tamara, each measure about 18 hands, said their owner Dick Canniff, who was being pulled by them in a red-and-white wagon with his grandson, Grant Richard Smith.
Canniff, who raises and sells the horses, a relation of the Clydesdale breed, said he uses them for wagon rides and weddings but has been coming to the parade for years since he lives in nearby Lisle.
The Percherons were just one example of the many animals that marched onto Main Street during the parade.
Pigs, goats and cows were also featured.
Jason and Craig, two French Alpine goats, pulled at their leashes held by 9-year old Michaela and 6-year-old Madison Clark of Marathon.
The parade was a first for the 6-month-old goats, said Michaela and Madison’s father, Mike Clark.
“The girls were interested in bringing them down ... and (they) won’t have a problem handling them, said Clark, calling the goats “well mannered.”
Absent from the parade, as is true every year, were motorized vehicles.
Union Fair organizer Connie White said she introduced an emphasis on animals when she took over the fair’s operations in 1986.
“It gives respect to people who care for animals, who love animals. We spend time and stop the parade to let the animals do a trick if they want,” White said.
The first fair was held in 1879, said White, starting a tradition that lasted 20 years. The fair used to be a three-day event and feature horse races at the local track on Brinks Flats, where Lowell Field now is. When funding lapsed, the fair was discontinued until 1983 when the Methodist Church revived it, White said.
Now the fair features a different themed parade every year along with unique exhibits. This year’s parade theme was American spirit, and the exhibit was a showcase of hand-made wedding gowns.
Marathon resident Mary Tillotson was taking pictures of her wedding gown, which was on display.
Tillotson remembered when her mother made the long white gown for her wedding in June 1976.
“It took her a couple of weeks. She made a simple gown from an older style,” Tillotson said, adding it was nice to see the gown and pictures of her wedding on display because it brought back memories.
A highlight of the fair for Bert Zurbruegg, who has lived in Marathon for 53 years, is the community aspect.
Zurbruegg came to ride a Trikke, a three-wheeled manually powered scooter, in the parade with her 9-year-old daughter Vanessa.
“My favorite part is seeing people you don’t see very often,” Zurbruegg said. She said she and her daughter decided to ride their scooter in the parade despite the fact that they are both still getting used to operating it.
“We are the only ones in Marathon who have one and you can’t have a motorized vehicle,” Zurbruegg said.
Later in the day a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Main Street was followed by a block party to celebrate the completion of a construction project that stretches for about a mile. The project, completed by the Syracuse-based construction company Syrstone Inc., resulted in a newly paved road and new sidewalks and curbs. Brick was laid along Main Street between sidewalks and curbs where grass had previously grown.
White praised the finished product for opening up the view of Main Street since it ran utility wires underground.
“Now you are not seeing wires from pole to pole on Main Street,” White said.
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