Published: August 22, 2017
Review and Photos by Tom O’Hara
UNION, MAINE – Paul Davis, promoter of the Maine Antiques Festival for the past 36 years, was pleased with the modest gains in the show’s numbers – with an increase in both exhibitors and attendance. Conducted over the three-day weekend, Friday through Sunday, August 4-6, there were more than 160 exhibitors in the barn, exhibit hall, tents and the Big Top Tent on the Union Fairgrounds. Like most promoters, Davis does not disclose exact attendance figures, but he did say that the “total attendance was an increase over last year’s total, even though the weather forecasts were not the most promising but no rain during the show.”
This year he moved many exhibitors around, condensing the show to the Midway of the fairgrounds and two main buildings, the big barn and the blue secured building. Individual tents and the Big Top Tent were all moved into the Midway with the food service on the end, giving the customers a better flow, with much less walking than in years past.
The Maine Antiques Festival attracts many dealers from the Northeast who consider it to be their best show and, therefore, save their best merchandise for exhibit at this popular event.
For example, Harry Hepburn III, Harrison, Maine, dealer and antique clock restorer was showing one of the most valuable quilts at the show. It was hand sewn on a white background, appliqué style, with a sitting eagle in the center and flowered border surround in muted red and blue. Of course, he was also showing some of his clock collection and furniture as well.
Wiscasset, Maine, shop dealer James LeFurgy was showing a collection of early art and small antiques, but he also demonstrated his sense of humor. There was, as he called it, a “Quack Machine” for sale – one of those late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Century electric gizmos that was supposed to cure whatever ails you: just plug it in, attach the electrodes or something like that and voila! Cured! Well, that’s what its maker said anyway.
Laura McCarthy, Bayberry Antiques of Rockland, Mass., was selling a charming homemade faro wheel, along with her collection of Nineteenth Century hooked rugs and mats.
Nicoll Fine Art & Antiques, Newcastle, Maine, was in the secured building rather than a tent to keep the art and fine 200-year-old hardwood furniture dry. They have been in the show for many years, with some of the best examples of English and American furniture from the late Georgian and early Federal periods available.
Josephine McDonough is a collector and dealer in antique prints and maps from Atlanta, Ga. Her collection has proven popular in Maine; she has been doing shows in the state for many years, and most years at the Maine Antiques Festival. This year’s sales were “25 percent over last year in the antique maps,” she said.
Kathy Tarr, owner of The Victorian Rose, was showing Shelley cups and saucers. From Wenham, Mass., Tarr has been at this show for three decades, selling this type of ware and several other 100- to 200-year-old styles of fine earthenware, along with a selection of special silver serving pieces and some art pottery.
The owners of the Pepperell, Mass., Back by Popular Demand collect all year for the various shows they do, focusing now on smaller household items from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. For this weekend’s outing, they were offering a large assortment of containers of various kinds. There were firkins, pantry boxes, wooden document boxes and small trunks. They had several small cupboards, too.
Martin Ferrick, Lincolnville, Maine, brought his inventory of Nineteenth Century American Federal furniture and paintings. His centerpiece was an American cherry Chippendale-style fall front desk in excellent condition, with a charming cutout base, good detail, good brasses and drawers inside.
Mixing up the styles and periods, Richard LaVigné, a new dealer to the show from the Village of Thorndike, Mass., was offering several pieces of European furniture. He sold several Biedermeier pieces early in the show; he was also offering some Empire-style furniture, along with a few early Twentieth Century pieces.
Mary Maguire was in the Big Top Tent this year as usual. The New London, Conn., dealer and artist was selling both antique prints and original art, some of which was her own work.
Susan Goldsweig and Unni Wyller were sharing a space in the Big Top Tent. They work together with a collection of folk art gathered near home, which is in Monroe Township, N.J.
Probably coming from the farthest away to attend the show were dealers from the Midwest: Colleen Alpers, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was offering late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century home crafts, including folk art, textiles, household tools and whimsies; newcomer Polly Blythe, Mount Vernon, Iowa, offered slightly later materials but also for the home, including a large collection of sewing paraphernalia, quilts and coverlets; and Suzanne Baker, Westville, Ind., was represented by Colleen and Polly, who were offering Baker’s collection that included Nineteenth stoneware, folk art and textiles. The three collections were set up in one large exhibit area in the Big Top Tent. As their sales were all little things, Colleen reported that their total was very good but did not give specifics.
Two Sides of a River, New London, N.H., sold Nineteenth Century furniture all weekend long and also a good deal of its collection of stoneware. Owner Mike Pheffer has been doing this show for about a decade now and continues to expand his inventory, adding stoneware, woodenware and toleware to his collection.
Larry Thompson, proprietor of Mr Chippendales Best, Atlanta, Ga., was selling more art than all the furniture he brought. Jamie’s Antiques, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., sold jewelry and small silver objects from her booth in the Big Top Tent.
One of the biggest pieces of furniture sold over the weekend went to a California buyer, and Steve Jenkins of Shelbyville, Ind., sold it. It was a very tall, very wide and very heavy blue milk painted drysink found in Indiana, dating to the first half of the 1800s. Jenkins has been in the Big Top Tent for many years, and the dealer and show promoter has a loyal following; this customer was a regular for him, a serious collector; she also bought from many others at the show.
New to the show this year was Margaret Alderman Ford from Columbia S.C. She came with an inventory of silver hollowware and high-end jewelry, which sold rather well she reported. Look for her again next year.
Maine Antiques Festival – 36 years and still going strong – is perhaps the best attended show in the state, Davis believes, and it is certainly the largest. It will be the first weekend of August again next year, but there is some discussion and a survey about whether it will be conducted over two or three days. Paul Davis will make that decision in a few weeks. For information, 207-221-3108.
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