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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Pageantry and gospel kick off Stonefort Reunion

  • Preparation for this year's Stonefort Soldiers and Sailors Reunion are complete, according to longtime organizer Shorty Martin.
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  • Preparation for this year's Stonefort Soldiers and Sailors Reunion are complete, according to longtime organizer Shorty Martin.
    The grass has been mown twice since the rains brought an apparent in to the worst of this year's drought and has been restored to its green luster just in time for Thursday's crowd.
    Though this year's event is being marketed as the 115th reunion, Martin said it may be older. It had been believed the first year of the reunion was 1893.
    "Then a guy said it started earlier than that. It's been going a long time," Martin said.
    Regular attendees will find a familiar schedule with Thursday's Beauty Pageant, Friday's Republican Night, Saturday's Democrat Night, fish fry Friday and Saturday and dance troops of Carrier Mills and Vienna.
    There are a few changes. For the first time there will be a 5K-10K Run/Walk starting at 8 a.m. Saturday and a Kids 1 Mile Fun Run 9 a.m. Saturday.
    There will not be Bingo this year. Martin said last year Bingo brought no money, the Bingo machine broke and there are state regulatory hurdles to negotiate before it can be reinstated.
    At 8 p.m. Friday the Mixed Company Band performs and at 8 p.m. Saturday Most Wanted takes the stage.
    Saturday brings the Fourth Annual Railroad Day to Stonefort at the Stonefort Depot Museums. Curator Linda Blackman invites everyone to celebrate Stonefort's railroad heritage and history 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors to the museum can tour the former train depot Blackman and volunteers have remodeled into a replica of the old depot. Photographs and record books are available for perusal, the cargo room has train implements and the hardware store museum is preserved as Blackman's father left it in the 1980s.
    Hovie Dee Stunson — Southern Illinois' own train expert — and others will interpret the importance of the locomotive industry to Stonefort and Southern Illinois.
    Martin has been watching the reunion ground take shape since Monday.
    "Some of the carnival is already in and they will be back with the rest of it," Martin said Monday.
    In years gone by the reunion saw the return of former Stonefort residents from all over the country in recreational vehicles and camper trailers set up on the grounds. There was no firm gate opening time or closing time. There are not so many long distance Stonefort natives as there used to be, but a few camping visitors may still show.
    "A few show up every year, but most of them have passed on," Martin said.
    Friday night is the night of the Old Timer's Reunion.
    Martin said growing up his favorite part of the festival was the spectacle. The reunion hosted some of the top live entertainment, even a trapeze act. Visiting is now the most appealing aspect to him.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Now it's just seeing old folks I went to school with and seeing all the folks I grew up with," Martin said.
    One less glamorous duty of preparing for the reunion is gathering the raw materials for the fish fry. The fish does not come from catfish ponds; they are river fish cleaned by volunteers on the bank.
    Martin, Arnold Morris and Steve Lay set their 10 trot lines 40 to 60 deep, clean them at their cleaning station and freeze them. The fishing usually begins about July and takes a couple of weeks to catch the 300 pounds required for the fish fry.
    The 115th Annual Soldiers and Sailors Reunion is sponsored by KMBB (Knowles, Mitchell, Bynum, Buckner) American Legion Post No. 400.
    Thursday, Aug. 23
    5 p.m. -- Beauty Pageant
    7:30 p.m. — Voices of Praise, Gospel Music.
    Friday, Aug. 24
    5 p.m. — Fish Fry $7.50.
    6 p.m. — Carrier Mills Dancers
    7 p.m. — Republican Night
    8 p.m. — Mixed Company Band
    Saturday, August 25
    8 a.m — Run/Walk Begins, Vendors Flea Market
    9 a.m. — Kids 1 Mile Fun Run, Free Yoga Session
    9:30 a.m. — Fare The Well Youth Gospel Group
    10 a.m. — Presentation of Run Awards
    12 noon — 6 p.m. Big Earl DJ & Karaoke
    3 p.m. — Vienna High School Dance Team
    5 p.m. — Free Zumba Dance Demo, Fish Fry
    6 p.m. — J. C. Cloggers
    7 p.m. — Democrat Night
    8 p.m. — Band: Most Wanted

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