Anyone who only visits Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Marion County Fairgrounds during the county fair hasn’t even scratched the surface of the events held there. While the County Fair is a huge draw, the fairgrounds and coliseum are in use approximately 45 weeks out of the year.
With 16,875 square feet of floor space and more than 3,000 seats, the coliseum annually plays host to dog shows, train shows, robotics competitions, wrestling tournaments, craft shows, a circus, and, just outside its doors, the Christmas by Candlelight holiday light drive-thru. It is one of the biggest rental facilities in the County, utilized for weddings, concerts, sporting events, and graduations.
In just the past few weeks, the coliseum and fairgrounds have been the venue for a Christian concert, Good Sam camping rally, Pleasant alumni event, amateur boxing, and the second International Gem and Jewelry Show, which first came to Marion earlier year and is back by popular demand.
Every summer at the end of July, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum goes to the dogs–literally. For nearly 60 years, the American Kennel Club Dog Show has loyally returned to the Fairgrounds to host this regional event. Combining clubs, the Dan Emmett Kennel Club and the Marion County Kennel Club work together to bring hundreds of dogs and their owners to Marion to strut their stuff. The AKC Dog Show attracts up to 2,000 trainers and their pups.
The Fairgrounds is a significant gathering place for the Marion community. At fair time in early July, 4-H projects ranging from science and technology to showing livestock fill the grounds, barns, and buildings for a solid week.
Since 2004, robots have taken over the Coliseum each April for the National Robotics Challenge. The event has grown tremendously and attracts 1,000+ students from 70 schools, third grade through college. This event, now managed locally by EduEverything, Inc., is the longest continually operating robotics event in the United States. The NRC is also widely known as the premier educational event for open-platform robotics competition.
The fairgrounds are also home to the Huber Machinery Museum, tucked beside Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The museum recognizes the vision and industry of one of the community’s foremost inventors and philanthropists, Edward Huber. The exhibits cover nearly four decades of Huber’s work and detail the profound difference he made on the American farm scene in the late 1800’s, as well as the construction equipment forbearers of the Marion Steam Shovel Company and, later, Marion Power Shovel.
Christmas by Candlelight has enthralled area residents at holiday time for 23+ years and will soon return. The 25-acre experience includes thousands of lights, animated characters, and traditional holiday scenes. The drive-thru display is open Thursday–Sundays from Thanksgiving through Christmas, and every night of Christmas week. The display begins this year on November 22. Also in time for the holidays is the annual Marion Union Station Model Train Show, which this year will be on December 1.
Upcoming attractions on the Coliseum’s schedule are indoor kart racing in February 2019 and the Marion Mambas indoor professional arena football in March.
Additional information on the fairground and coliseum is available online at veteransmemorialcoliseum.org or by calling staff members Cindy Wood, Susan Gorenflo, and Dee Cackler at 740-382-2558.