October 21, 2021

1890 Union Fair is a last gasp of summer

Event Saturday returns to streets of Marathon

Provided by Connie White

Two people ride in a horse-drawn carriage along Main Street in Marathon for the 2020 annual Union Fair parade. The parade is “no engines allowed” and many residents ride horses, bicycles or walk their dogs. This year’s event is on Saturday

Labor Day weekend isn’t your last chance for a dose of fun before summer ends. Coming Saturday, Marathon’s small-town fair will take you back in time, complete with a horse-drawn parade.

Marathon’s 1890 Union Fair dates back decades. Featuring baked goods, vendors, quilt and garden displays, a raffle and auction, the annual event brings hundreds of people to Main Street for a day of festivities.

“It’s not anything but us celebrating who we are, and being thankful we live in this country and this town,” said Connie White, secretary for the 1890 Union Fair. She was born and raised in Marathon.

“Last year, we knew we couldn’t do a lot of things, since we couldn’t get everybody into a room like that. But we said we’re going to have the parade no matter what,” White said.

The parade is the biggest draw for spectators, and dozens of people come to participate.

“It’s very family-friendly oriented, and anybody who wants to participate in the parade can — as long as it doesn’t have an engine,” said Justin Lilley, lifelong Marathon resident. Many people ride their horses or bicycles, walk their dogs, or just march along Main Street holding hands or waving flags.

This year, the 1890 Union Fair is taking place on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The theme this year will be “Let Freedom Ring,” and volunteers from the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 377 will have a color guard lead the parade.

“It’ll give you chills,” White said.

“I think it’s really important to continue to build our sense of community,” Lilley said. “People know their neighbors, and this is a chance to get out and see their neighbors — it’s outside, so it’s easy to social distance if anybody’s concerned about that — but it’s a way to get the community together and out of their houses.

Lilley is a member of the Marathon Lions Club, which has volunteered to pay for the fair’s insurance, so organizers and vendors can plan the event without worrying about the cost.

“I’ve been coming to the fair since I was a boy, and now we can help to keep it going so organizers don’t really have to raise funds for it,” Lilley said.

The fair will have live bluegrass music, a maple museum, small animals show, antique collections and students bringing miniature gardens for a fairy garden exhibit. For the full schedule of events, check out Marathon 1890 Union Fair’s Facebook Page.

Vicki Robinson has chaired the baked goods committee for more than 30 years — first alongside her mother and now with her daughter — organizing the competition and display.

“We encourage our bakers to show off their talents,” Robinson said. “We have excellent bakers in our community. Every entry must be made from scratch, listing their ingredients and recipe.”

“The Union Fair is just, it’s about us and who we are. We want to be good neighbors and we want to take care of each other,” White said. “We want to have a few laughs and show off what we can do — that’s all it is. A time to come together.”