Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Old Fashioned Days – It’s All about Coming Home

It is almost August and we are more than half way through the year and on the road to autumn. For some it feels like the beginning of the long slide into winter, for others, it is the high point of the year. July and August are busy vacation months and if you’re a Marionite, it means it’s almost time for our own local holiday, Old Fashioned Days. In Marion, the first week of August means coming home. As generations of folks with a Marion connection know, August means it’s time for our summer homecoming, August 7 if you are of a certain age, or Old Fashioned Days if you are of another. Whatever you may call our party, the time is drawing near. Marion has been throwing the party and folks have been coming home during the first week of August since the celebration got its start in 1912.  Our little tradition was started by the Marion Board of Trade under the guidance of Dr. Joseph Carrow, to promote our friendly little town. The Board was the forerunner of the present day Chamber of Commerce. They went all out in planning a day which would be enjoyed by those coming to town, filled with events which would still draw a crowd today.  August 7 was a busy day which included street sports, a water fight, horse racing, a baseball game between Marion and one of its rivals, generally Evart. Two street bands kept things lively, and of course, the evening ended with a dance. The highlight of the day was the ascension of a hot air balloon and no one left hungry after the ox roast.   There probably wasn’t a soul left in the surrounding countryside on August 7, 1912. People walked, piled on wagons and rode the train from neighboring towns. It was claimed that 3,000 persons came to town on that first 7th of August. There are photos of the Big Day, as it was first called, and they record the excitement pretty well. In crisp black and white, they show our broad Main Street filled with busy, happy people, clearly in party mode. Photos of those early parades are so clear that you can almost hear the music and smell the popcorn; however, judging from the numbers of horses in town on that day, it probably wasn’t the smell of popcorn that folks smelled.   A highlight in 1912 was the Minstrel “Rube Band” which entertained folks on the street and joined the parade. The local fire department, always proud to display, seems to have started a tradition they still often use, and brought up the end of the parade.   The 7th of August celebration of 1950, which included carnival rides on a closed Main Street, boasted an attendance of 4,000. The homecoming of 1951 was the last coincidently occurring on, and bearing the name, 7th of August. The Marion Chamber of Commerce established what we know today as Old Fashioned Days in 1958.  Old Fashioned Days has given us the chance to celebrate all the things we consider us. Through the years we’ve celebrated the founding of our little town and its lumbering roots. We’ve seen beard growing contests and more than one fashion show harking back to grandma’s closet. We’ve paraded more horses than we can count up the street. We’ve celebrated all forms of wheeled conveyance, from surreys with fringe on top, Model T’s, and ’57 Chevy’s, to almost more tractors than anyone could count.          We’ve feted some celebrities. WWTV’s well known kids show host, Kenny Roberts the Jumping Cowboy, rode his horse Starlight in the first Old Fashioned Day parade. We’ve seen more hopeful local politicians than anyone can begin to remember. These are some of the ingredients of a successful homecoming; hold a Kid’s parade in the morning, the VFW chicken cookout at noon, the biggest parade ever in the middle of the afternoon, a duck race on the Middle Branch late in the afternoon. Be sure to have a penny pile for the kids, bargains galore and at least, a smattering of softball. There, you have the recipe for a successful homecoming festival. We’ve know it for years.  Marionites, near and far, still love a good parade, a good bargain, plenty of good food, and the chance to meet old friends. This year’s Old Fashioned Days promises to provide all those things and more. Stay tuned to the Press for this year’s list of events. Just like everyone else, we’ll be looking for you on Main Street!

        This week’s photo is from Old Fashioned Days, 1960. Early celebrations found everyone dressed as if it were ‘the old days’. Here Crystal Diment, a Flemming’s Clothing employee, is decked out in fine style. 

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