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Elkhorn Flea Market: Rain or Shine

I am not a morning person, never have been, and I’m starting to think I never will be.  I have beautiful friends who get maybe 5-6 hours of sleep and then hop out of their beds like sprightly little larks all freshly rested and chirpping.  They never hit snooze, they gently tap the off button on their alarms, put two feet on the floor and begin each day all smiley and wide-eyed.  They get up on the right side of the bed every morning.  I know this.  I’ve curiously watched them over the years, thinking to my sluggish, squinting, bed-headed self, huh, look at that.  So, Sunday morning when I lifted my head to peer over my husband so I could see his alarm clock and it read 5:28 AM and it hadn’t gone off yet, I laid back down and smiled because I too was going to have one of those rare mornings where I get up in the darkness with a skip and a grin because today was flea market day!

The forecast looked perfect.  My weather bug app said, partly sunny, high of 73 and possible showers later in the afternoon.  I could not have ordered a more perfect day if I tried.  We would for sure be done treasure hunting by the time the rain came.  And, Sunday morning when we arrived, the sky looked like this.  All glowing and growing with light.

So, we set off.  Coffee and a cruller… check.  Favorite linen dealer… check.  Now it was time to just let the day take us where it may.  Just to not be in a rush was so wonderful, so relaxing.

When we first started coming to the flea market years ago, I was in college.  I lived in a dorm or rented house and I was broke.  Not like your house and children make you cash-strapped later in life, but like every last dollar I had was tightly bound and catalogued, already assigned to books, rent or tuition.  Okay, and maybe a pitcher of beer or some other disgustingly sweet, fruity concoction I enjoyed at the time.  Come to think of it, this may be why I originally fell in love with the flea market, because I could bring $20 and actually stretch it enough to buy a couple of things.  I still remember finding a small, one piece nativity that lit up for $5 and I seriously felt like I won the lottery.  Add a couple of old vintage suitcases I used as a night stand in my tiny over-stuffed bedroom and they might as well have been lined with gold for how excited I was.  Cute, vintage, storage for a bargain.  Oh happy college girl day!

The things I am drawn to have evolved over the years.  The moment Jason and I started even thinking about having babies I was immediately drawn to every tiny pair of knitted baby booties, old blocks with the edges all smoothed out from lots of use, wicker baby carriages and don’t even get me started on the wide array of vintage children’s prints.  Oh, and if it was the perfect shade of pale nursery yellow, I was drawn to that too, like boys to dirt.

Now that Jamison is closer to 2 than 1, and Jack is 3 1/2, it has been fun to look for cool old toys, books and other unique vintage gems for them.  Not long into the morning, I happened upon a dealer who was selling a huge assortment of metal die-cast cars & trucks.  My interest was peeked.

In watching my boys play with their toys over the years, I have found that they tend to be drawn to the toys that daddy pulls out, plays with and likes best.  Also, from what I have been told, Jason was very particular as a child and took great care in making sure his toys, mostly tractors were always clean and put away.  Apparently, there was no willy-nilly leaving toys strewn all over the sand box for weeks on end for the sun and the rain to beat them down into rusty submission.  It is probably a good thing he never visited my sandbox as a child.  I have learned at this stage of the game, if I am buying toys for the boys, not only is it important that the boys like the toys, but also that daddy likes the toys.  I mean, for goodness sake, mama could buy some truck or implement that wasn’t made of the right material, that had a plastic smoke stack not a metal one or heaven forbid, it be the wrong color.  We are a green tractor family, not a red tractor family.  Grandpa Joe has Great Grandpa Cy’s green John Deere Tractor, not one of those red tractors.  No offense to you lovely red tractor families, we have nothing but love for you, too.  So, when it comes to the true gender specific toys I buy for the boys, I like to consult the CTO (chief toy officer) of the house (daddy) and go from there.  If we had girls, I’m sure he might like some guidance on the finer points of Barbie or My Little Pony selection, as well.

In addition, I am currently undergoing intense tractor and truck training.  I have also been known to practically swerve off the road with excitement when I see a combine or bailer in the field and am frantically pointing it out to the boys.  Or I may speed up next to an unsuspecting truck driver so the boys can get a closer look at his truck & trailer.  I’m hoping the officer goes easy on me when I get my first ticket for inattentive driving or tailgating a dump truck.  I wouldn’t have seen that coming 5 years ago.

So, here I was in the midst of this huge selection of vintage metal die-cast cars, trucks and planes and I didn’t have my CTO along to consult with.  Flying solo, I started talking with the dealer to find out the scoop.  There was a story behind all the Midgetoy toys he possessed, because here, there is always a story.  The short version goes like this:  This dealer happened to be in Rockford, IL when his vehicle broke down.  By pure chance, he ended up meeting one of the children of the original owners of the A&E Tool & Gage Co. who produced these die-cast toys.  The company was located in Rockford, IL and open from 1943 to 1981.  This gentleman had some of these toys right off the assembly line, new and in storage that he was looking to get rid of.  The dealer bought some of his stock and there it was, after thirty plus years in storage, in Elkhorn, WI.

I could tell the dealer was super excited about how this all came to be.  He explained to me he came from a family of 7 children and remembered as a child looking at these toy sets in the store and so badly wanting one, but his parents could never afford them.  He said he stayed up for 3 nights straight just looking over the trucks and playing with them.  So, I went out on a limb and bought 2 sets for the boys for Christmas.  One for Jack and one for Jamison.  I’m still waiting for the official stamp of approval from our family CTO.  They are not green tractors after all.  So, we’ll just have to wait and see what Christmas brings.  I think they are super cool.  I want to play with them.

Lunch: Super yummy Italian Combo – There is actually an Italian sausage underneath the layers of beef, onions, peppers, marinara and mozzarella. So delicious.
Lunch: Super yummy Italian Combo – There is actually an Italian sausage underneath the layers of beef, onions, peppers, marinara and mozzarella. So delicious.

Shortly there after, the rain started and into the buildings we went.  Luckily, it was only sprinkling.  The rain came and went, off and on again, but overall was pretty harmless.  When the rain cleared up for a spell, we decided we better load up our goodies in the car so we wouldn’t have to collect them later in a downpour.  Been there, done that, not fun, but very humorous is retrospect.  Once everything was loaded in the car, we came back in to eat lunch and look around some more.

After lunch, I found this little beauty for $20.  The camera was tucked in the bottom of an unpacked box in Hippie Tom’s booth.  You know, American Pickers’ Hippie Tom.  AKA, “I love you man” Hippie Tom.  I thought it would look really cool displayed on one of my book shelves.

Hippie Tom was so soft spoken and nice.  I watched this little boy walk up to Hippie Tom with the utmost reverence and awe, like he was walking up to Aaron Rodgers or Kenny Chesney.  Hippie Tom met him half way, extended his hand and said, “Hi, how are you, I’m Hippie Tom.”  So cute.  I loved it.

And finally, here are a couple more of the treasures I found Sunday.

5 Enamel Coffee Mugs $8.00 ~ I see a John Deere tractor birthday party in my future.  I thought these might make fun props.

Blue Linen Jumper $1.00 ~ It is handmade and I can’t wait to try it on Jamison.  I’m hoping he can wear it to the family picnic coming up. 

Pink Bonnet $2.50, Quilt & 2 Rugs $15.00, Vintage Puzzles $1.00 Each

The last flea market of the year is September 29th and it is usually a good one.  As long as the weather cooperates, the dealers are slightly more motivated than normal to give you a good deal because they want to liquidate their goods before winter.

Maybe, I’ll see you then!



I loved those old suitcases in your tiny room! I think we had the best decorated rooms for college kids:) It was a perfect flea market day…with my own awesome treasures found! Love the cast iron toys, what a find! Hope you don’t mind but I’ve stolen your linen lady…although I always arrive after you…the one time you may be more of a morning person than me:) Ha!


Yes, we Martha’d up those college rooms pretty nice, didn’t we? And, I hope you don’t mind, but you were one of those fabulous early rising friends I was talking about! I can’t wait to see those beautiful beds all set up. Princess beds for my sweet princess girls.


Much more of a night owl over here, but up at the crack of dawn with a baby this morning. At least I’ve had some time with my cup of coffee and a virtual trip to the flea market. Great finds! I love those vehicle toys- what a score. (And good reminder to start planning for Christmas now. Gah!)

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