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Marion festival starts today

May 30, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

MARION, Pa. - Today marks the beginning of the 1998 Marion Festival, this unincorporated Franklin County village's annual mini-carnival that runs for five Saturday nights through June 27.

The festival not only raises money to keep the community's street lights going and pays for trees planted in town, but also is the biggest fund-raiser for the Marion Volunteer Fire Co. and the Marion Athletic Association, the agency that runs the local ball park and its teams.

The festival, which Chairman Ken Baker calls "a real community event," has been held on the athletic field off Kennedy Street since the early 1960s. Before that it was held on the Marion Elementary School grounds until more room was needed. The festival dates back to the days after World War II, Baker said, and is the community's biggest single fund-raiser, grossing about $60,000 each year.

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Baker, 55, said he remembers the festivals growing up in Marion.

More than 200 residents volunteer to work on the festival - manning the midway rides and the concession stand. "We have eight french-fry friers to keep going," Baker said.

Marion has a population of about 1,200, which swells to more than 2,000 on festival nights.

Baker has chaired the committee that runs the festival for 17 years. The committee includes the fire company and athletic association. It owns the festival grounds, the pavilion, the concession stands even the midway rides, which include a standard-size Ferris wheel and two kiddie rides, Baker said.

"This is the biggest thing in town. It's amazing how people here turn out to help. I'm proud of this community," he said.

Besides the midway, other festival activities include games, entertainment by country bands and the watermelon raffle. "Every year we put in an order for the biggest watermelons we can buy," Baker said.

The festival opens at 4 p.m. with the food stand and closes at 10 each night.

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