The Marathon Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1964, and for roughly the first 15 years of its existence it garnered considerable publicity because it was the only all-women chamber in the United States. The chamber’s first president was Anne Jo Wedin, who would later distinguish herself further by writing an authoritative book on Marathon, The Magnificent Marathon Basin A History of Marathon, Texas, Its People and Events.
The second woman to hold the important post as president of the Marathon Chamber of Commerce was Patsy Ruth Cavness.
During the 60s and 70s the Marathon chamber concerned itself largely with publicizing the town as the Gateway to Big Bend National Park. It was also involved with establishing a bus route from Marathon to Lajitas, which was in operation for about a year.
A major focus of the chamber during those early years, which tied into the town’s connection to the national park, was its participation in an international association that invited tourists to explore the American continent using U.S. 385 as the highway link across the United States from Canada to Mexico. In 1968, chamber members were part of a group that crossed, at its opening, the Carl A. Gerstacker Bridge linking the United States and Mexico across the Rio Grande.
That bridge, closed since 1997, is now best known as the La Linda bridge. But it has another name as well --- the Hallie Stillwell Memorial Bridge -- so called to remember rancher/teacher/justice of the peace Hallie Stillwell, a “Yellow Rose of Texas” who lived almost 100 years and is the subject of a museum at the Stillwell property on FM 2627.
Marathon citizen Tyrus Fain and the Rio Grande Institute, based in Marathon, are involved in binational efforts to reopen the La Linda bridge and to stimulate heritage tourism along the Rio Grande.
Chamber members -- in particular Patsy Ruth Cavness -- also took part in the visit of Lady Bird Johnson to Fort Davis National Historic Site on its dedication in and welcomed the Texas-born U.S. First Lady to Marathon on her way to visit the national park afterwards.
Within recent years the Chamber of Commerce has begun sponsorship of two annual fall events -- the West Fest, a cabrito (goat) cook-off and dance, and the Marathon2Marathon, a 26.2 mile race between Alpine and Marathon that attracts runners and their families to the Big Bend.
Other past presidents of the chamber are: Marie Preston, Ruby Faye Thompson, Marilyn Shackelford, Gary Lamar, Tom Glasscock, Lyn Shackelford, Toby Cavness, Steve Houston, Ted Thayer, Lloyd Goldwire, Danny Self, Mark Hannan, Hal Henthorne, Neil Chavigny, Betty Jones, and Kate Thayer(Acting President).
The mission of the Marathon Chamber of Commerce is to provide creative leadership for appropriate economic development in Marathon and the Big Bend area.
To accomplish this mission, the Chamber will: