There are very few small towns fortunate enough to have a classic place like the Marion Park Pavilion to host community events. Over the years, the unique structure stands proud and has long been called an architectural gem.
Built in a gracious, albeit unusual American fairground design - there are are eight sides to the structure which is entirely open on the interior causing visitors to look up at the pie-like shapes that come together to form the domed ceiling that rises 45-feet at the center.
There are no supporting cross beams to break the circular sort of octagon design and so it arches high into the unusual silo-style roof. The building is encircled by windows all the way around and wide doors that can swing open during events.
The 12-foot sidewalls give the air of spaciousness that most indoor arenas can not match.
The Marion Park Pavilion is a great source of pride and is carefully maintained. A new roof, which was no small project given the numerous rounded sections, was put on several years ago and was funded through generous donations from current and former residents and businesses.
According to Glidden’s website, the building’s history goes back to 1912 when dancing was a popular social activity and enthusiastic dancers created the need for good dance halls. The first was designed and constructed by Frank Huber at a cost of $200. According to historical records, 26 years later when age had settled on the first Glidden dance hall, it was deemed that it was time to build “the best dance hall in Northern Wisconsin.”
Huber came to the fore again, this time he designed the existing pavilion assisted by the Federal Works Administration Fund in 1938. The cost? $11,000. It was built on approximately the same site as the first.
The new structure stands in 2015 as sound as a dollar. It apparently was Huber’s intent to keep the pavilion as open as possible to allow for dancers to move unimpeded across the floor. Now, 77-years later, it still holds the distinction of being one of the largest and smoothest hard maple dance floors in Wisconsin.
But, there had to have been some who questioned the unique design as the building went up. The eight-sided structure was designed with four double door entrances which face the directions of the compass and for longevity … the structure is supported by 347 pyramid pillars. Forms for the concrete pillars and the foundation were were built from reclaimed lumber from the first pavilion.
The Marion Park Pavilion is used frequently for community celebrations and of course - wedding and anniversary dances. It is the centerpiece of the park which also offers free, quiet camping for visitors, but Marion Park really comes to life on Labor Day weekend when the traditional Glidden Fair is held each year.
It should also be noted, that the Labor Day weekend event in Glidden has a quieter, perhaps less well known tradition of drawing back numerous former residents for school and family reunions set each year.
The park also offers an exhibition hall for many entries by area residents, from garden produce to arts and crafts. The Historical Museum is open for nostalgia buffs where artifacts are displayed, including memorabilia from the old days of the Black Bear teams prevalent before school district consolidation. Glidden is of course known as the Black Bear Capital of Wisconsin.
The weekend events kick off around noon on Saturday, Sept. 5, Besides the usual quarter bingo, rides, and kids games the big Mud Run event begins at 1 p.m. Back by popular demand, 3-D archery begins at 9 a.m.
Sunday events kick off early with a walk-run at 9 a.m. and the Rib Cook Off at 8 a.m. with barbecue wafting through the fairgrounds until 4 p.m.
There is some real serious competition beginning at noon in the pavilion with a giant Frog Jumping contest. Kids in the area have been on the look out for the biggest and strongest frogs that can out jump others in the big circle of excited kids clapping and stomping their feet to get their frogs jumping.
Also at noon, visitors are invited to watch the horse pull contestants haul the big loads. The 3D archery contests will continue on site.
Then the evening will close out with the “dance hall” being used for its original purpose with a band called “Whiskey Bent” from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Monday will close out with music by Jeff Walker from 1 to 4 p.m. and more games of Bingo. Visitors are invited to enjoy the wide choices of fair food throughout the weekend.