I love the Elkhorn Flea Market. In a world where everything is disposable, nothing is disposable here. All the items for sale have been gently loved by one or more owners, and then sent back into the world to be loved some more. Repurposed, reused, re-loved. We’ve been coming here for 15 years and it’s like recharge therapy for my creative, collector’s soul. It’s one of the few remaining places you can still find a good deal. And, since most women speak bargain, I’ll break it down like this: super cute vintage loot meets let’s make a deal. If you appreciate all things vintage/antique and have an imaginative eye, this is the place for you. Elbow grease and paint once home, optional.
In all the years I’ve been coming here, last Sunday was the first time I brought my camera and I’m so glad I did. How rewarding to finally attach some words and pictures to this place I enjoy so much.
There is an unspoken understanding amongst the misfits that buy and sell here. And I say misfits in the most affectionate way possible, in the way that Daddy Warbucks would call his beloved Annie an orphan. Everything and everyone here has a story. And Sunday mornings when you’re perusing one of the 500 or so dealer’s treasures, you’re not in a hurry. You want to hear that story. “That art deco wardrobe you have is amazing, where did it come from?” “That vintage fire truck is so cool, I wonder how many little people got to play with that?” And, there is a lot of this going on, too, “what do you think they used that thing for?” The answers are often surprising.
Oh, and my weak spot… linens. Quilts, both finished and unfinished lure me in every time. Sometimes the pieces aren’t even sewn together yet, only remnants of fabric cut out but not pieced. I want to take them all home and adopt them because I know some talented crafts person lovingly stitched or knitted or crocheted them together. Old sewing boxes really cause pause in my pursuit. Each time I come across one (and they’re all different), I stop and admire it’s contents and think about who they belonged to. What was she like? What future projects did she have planned and how many unfinished projects did she leave undone? How did this end up here? Okay, I’ve decided, I’ll adopt and love her… I mean her little sewing box of notions and threads.
The community of people that buy & sell here are such gems in my opinion, too. They are junkers and treasure hunters, hoarders, collectors and conservationists. They represent the original “green” movement. The regular antique dealers are an eclectic mix of young and old, apron wearing, cowboy boot clad, rock n’ roll t-shirt clothed story tellers. They are quirky and resourceful, sometimes haggard and tired, but very, very genuine. Some of them drive miles to come here and sell their wares. Some even sleep in their vans the night before, but they all have a passion for antiques.
Last Sunday, mom & I went to the 2nd flea market of the year and enjoyed all of our traditional flea market day rituals. We’re up early, park in our favorite spot and then head off to the cream puff stand for coffee and a cruller. Yum. First we visit our favorite linen dealer. She has the best stuff, the best prices and is such a sweet lady. Her husband creates beautiful benches out of old wooden doors and other cool things. I bought one of those benches a couple of years ago and I just love it. They come in all shapes and sizes, but mine is yellow of course because everything is just better in yellow. After that, we just relax and slowly wind up and down the aisles and aisles of dealers, wandering, inspecting and catching up. When we find something we just have to have a little bit of bartering takes place and we’re off again.
As we walk around, I try to glean all the creative energy and inspiration that exist there and store it away for another day. By the time the day is done, my cup runneth over with new ideas and projects to try. It really is fascinating to see all the creative things people come up with. We often say it would be fun to just hang out by the gate as people leave and check out all the interesting things they buy. Then we could ask them what they are going to do with their newfound treasures.
Sunday we ended the day by meeting some friends for lunch and caught up on all the fun bargains they discovered as well. From there, we slowly wound our way back through the dealers to the front entrance, both in and out of the fair ground buildings and picked out a couple more bargains.
If you’ve never been to this or any other flea market, I highly recommend it. You can find the remaining schedule for this year and next year here. A couple of tips to get you started:
- Dress in layers, wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen, glasses & a hat.
- Bring a measuring tape, desired dimensions, paper & a pencil.
- Bring a small back pack or possibly a cart on wheels.
- Have some bungee cords, blankets and an empty vehicle just in case you find a bigger than anticipated treasure.
- Be ready to haggle, but be friendly, not insulting. If you’re the shy type, please don’t let this dissuade you. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for a better deal, you can always politely ask the dealer, “What is your best price for this item?” They’ll tell you.
- Leave your fancy rock at home. This tip is courtesy of my very savvy sister-in-law. It is hard to barter with someone about a cool wire basket you only want to pay $12 for when you have a super expensive ring on your perfectly manicured finger and are carrying your coach purse (luckily I don’t have this problem). I think I got my best deals when I was a broke college student. Oh, just give it to the poor girl, can’t you see she’s broke.
- Bring Cash. Some dealers will take a check for a larger item, but many will not.
- If you see something you like (and you can afford it), buy it. Many a time have I looked at something, hemmed & hawed about it, walked away, came back an hour later to buy it and it was gone.
- Go in small groups. It is too hard to look around and see all the things you want to see if you’re going in 5 different directions.
- While I have seen many a brave parent with babies & little people in tow, I always feel sorry for both the parent and the children. It’s doable, but slightly more stressful in my opinion. Think hot sticky state fair park with no rides or animals to distract the little people with.
Here are some of the treasures I snagged last Sunday:
Copper Pot $10, Carved Wooden Box $10 & 2 Silver Handled Vases $15
2 Extra Large Golden Books for the boys $3
Glass Jars $1.00 Each ~ They’ll be perfect vases for small centerpieces or containers for organizing small pieces.
Bell $2.00 ~ Paperweight?
2 Wire Baskets $24, 3 Framed Pictures $7, Assorted Linens, Trim & Scarf $20
The next Elkhorn Flea Market is Sunday, August 11th. The gates open at 7:00 am.
Happy Treasure Hunting!