Published: July 8, 2003
“When it rains, it pours.”
John Peden of Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Conn., had just moved his “antirain mojo” – a circa 1940 lawn ornament in the familiar form of the umbrella-carrying Morton Salt Girl – outside his tent on Saturday morning to ward off the drops of rain that began falling around 8:20. Little Ms Morton, however, was no match for the rain gods, which sent a two-day soaker over Allen’s Meadows fields north of Wilton High School on June 21-22 during Marilyn Gould’s Wilton Outdoor Antiques Marketplace.
Benefiting the Wilton Kiwanis Club and the Wilton Family YMCA, the summer show, which hosted more than 175 dealers in room settings under tents, opened on schedule for early buying at 8 am on Saturday, but operated a truncated session on Sunday when the field came under water and no vehicles could get on to allow the dealers to unpack their booths.
“It rained heavily Saturday afternoon and Saturday night,” recalled Marie Miller, Dorset, Vt. “The field could not absorb all the water. Marilyn Gould wisely delayed Sunday’s opening until 10:30 and did not allow anyone to drive onto the field. This kept it from becoming a quagmire of mud. She also closed the show early at 3 pm since the dealers had a very difficult pack-out. Her professionalism and the strong camaraderie of the dealers made for a very pleasant show.”
Gould’s “very unusual weekend,” as she characterized it, began with a smooth setup on Friday. “It was a fabulous move in,” said Gould, who credited the Wilton Kiwanis Club volunteers for devising a system that lined up the dealers in specific order for getting onto the field and unloading. Gould acknowledged, however, that a combination of bad weather and recent “improvements” to the fields by the parks and recreation department – 18 inches of topsoil, which pooled water when it became waterlogged – conspired to make the weekend progressively worse. “In the end, there was no place for the water to go,” she said.
Gould said she made a decision, strongly influenced by parks and recreation officials, to close the show early on Sunday and to not allow trucks and vehicles onto the field. “We used three small vehicles — an SUV, a pickup truck and a panel truck – to help move exhibitors’ goods off the field,” said Gould.
As bad as things got with the weather, there were also examples of good-natured acceptance on the part of many dealers. For Patricia Funt on New Canaan, Conn., the show’s most memorable moment came on Saturday afternoon when she was forced to shout a description about one of her rdf_Descriptions to a customer over the roar of thunder. Funt’s eclectic display included everything from late Nineteenth Century wooden artist’s models to a horsehair barrister’s wig complete with original case. She said one of her most interesting sales was to a retiring schoolteacher who purchased a dog inkwell to reward herself after 35 years of teaching and to assuage the longing for her own recently deceased pet. “It was a very sweet sale,” said Funt.
Despite the soggy outcome, several dealers reported brisk sales, beginning with the “serious” early buying action from 8 to 10 am on Saturday. “Early buying was strong, and we did most of our weekend selling on Saturday until about 1 pm,” said Marie Miller.
“On Sunday, when the rain briefly eased up a lot of us felt that the interest and energy of the customers was there, even toward the end of the show;” concurred Emily and Irma Lampert of Wenham Cross Antiques, Topsfield, Mass. “If it had been sunny on Sunday, we would possibly have had a very good day for sales.”
“Needless to say the rain put a damper on things, but the show is always so great that there was good traffic on Saturday, including the early buying,” agreed Eleanor and David Billet from New York City. The Billets, lifelong collectors, were enjoying their second Wilton outdoor show by “deaccessioning” some of their home’s furnishings, such as a scrub-top table with painted base along with six Windsor chairs. They sold the chairs, but still have the table. “We sold a shell faux bois basket,” they said. “After we sold the shell basket a couple was very disappointed that it sold as they live on the beach and have wanted a shell basket for some time. We are hoping to find another one for them.”
Because weather is a key variable for any outdoor show, weather-watchers can be forgiven for scrutinizing the skies before and during the event. In a year when even Heineken is citing bad weather as contributing to a ten percent decline in beer sales in the Northeastern United States, it is clear that the first half of 2003 has not been kind to those who would woo the weekend retail antiques crowd. Serious buyers, however, are not deterred by inclement weather because they know from experience that many dealers bring some of their prize rdf_Descriptions to the Wilton outdoor show.
For Paul and Karen Wendhiser, Ellington, Conn., for example, it was a 35-star Civil War period flag, “all hand sewn and a wonderful piece of history,” according to Karen Wendhiser. For Rae Harrell of the Hawk’s Nest, Hinesburg, Vt., it was a sheared hook rug along with several other rdf_Descriptions from the estate of Holly Webb Froud that she and husband Loy had acquired at the recent Merrill auction in Williston, Vt.
And for Kelly Kinzle, New Oxford, Penn., it was a Stephen Etnier painting of a 1940s airplane hangar near Brunswick, Maine, with two bright red single-prop planes and repairmen, titled “In the Hangar,” measuring 35 by 49 inches. Kinzle had recently won the painting at auction in York, Penn., and the Wilton show was its postpurchase debut.
The Wendhisers sold the Civil War flag “to a collector right at the start of the show,” according to Karen Wendhiser. “We had a decent show, and it actually picked up on Sunday.” Wendhiser said she had also received a callback on an Northeast Indian basket, and that one of her biggest hits were small copper downspout hardware pieces that had come from the historic Colt building in Hartford, Conn., which people were buying as garden architectural ornaments.
Larry and Marie Miller reported having “a strong furniture show,” which included beds, chests, and a refinished pine two-piece glass door corner cupboard from New England, circa 1840, that featured the original glass in the doors. “Among our sales was a rare Indiana Jacquard coverlet that was dated 1854,” said Marie Miller. “The Checklist of American Coverlet Weavers states that there were only five known coverlets by this maker.” Other rdf_Descriptions shown by the Millers included a refinished pie safe, circa 1880-1920, that had been found in Ohio, a set of four chairs, a folky wooden sculpture of jockey and horse preparing to clear a fence, stoneware jugs, crocks and ironstone pitchers.
It was a great looking show, according to Deborah Ferguson, Canterbury, Conn., who brought a Nineteenth Century country sofa, a painted bed, a wall cupboard and a rare hand light, among other rdf_Descriptions to Wilton. “There were many quite wonderful rdf_Descriptions for sale,” said Ferguson. “Despite the rain, I sold a couple of rugs and dolls and a wonderful six-board blanket chest.”
“They say you can’t sell brown furniture at an outdoor show, but we sold a big secretary to a new client in Connecticut,” said Douglas Constant, who with wife Karin was attending the Wilton outdoor show for the first time from Orient (Long Island), N.Y. The Constants also sold a Pennsylvania painted bench to a customer who followed them up from Long Island, a candlestand and a Shaker box. “The show was good. We’re happy with the results,” said Doug Constant.
Wayne Pratt, Woodbury, Conn., likewise reported a decent showing. “I sold a couple of things, did about $20,000-plus” said Pratt. “Marilyn did a nice job under the circumstances, there was good attendance and we sold some chests, chairs and tables.” Pratt showed a two-part painted Queen Anne tiger maple flattop high chest from Essex County, Mass., circa 1765-1785. Purchased from a private collection, the chest was in a very fine state of preservation with an old red wash beneath an oxidized resin varnish surface that was added in the early Nineteenth Century. The brass hardware was replaced. Also on view was a New England cherry four-drawer chest, circa 1760-1780.
A “metal man” trade sign outside the American Primitive Gallery booth attracted considerable interest. Owner Aarne Anton of New York City had posed the anthropomorphic assemblage of welded together tubes, milk can body and other scrap pieces with a push-type lawnmower. “The purchaser said it was his son’s favorite piece at the show,” said Anton. “My son, Willi, age 6, expressed alarm that the robot would no longer be living with us after several seasons pushing a lawnmower in our own yard.”
Anton added that the copious rain meant that “the drought of 2002 is over and we escaped the heat of past Wilton shows. Certainly the rains kept some people at home; however, the passionate antiquers were out looking and buying,” he said. “Past shows and auctions have taught me that rain and snow may reduce the crowds but it does not deter the determined antique buyers.”
As proof, Anton cited sales comparable with past Wilton outdoor shows, “with a lighter load going home.” Sales included a sculptural mirror frame with faces carved by Moses Ogden (1844-1919) of western New York State.
For first-time exhibitors Rob Risimini and Michael McClosky, Salem, N.J., it was like Christmas in June – because their specialty is Christmas ornaments and decorative rdf_Descriptions. “Every day is Christmas,” quipped McClosky as he pointed out a Pennsylvania folk art barn and metal wreaths with Dresdenlike animal, nautical, holly and oak leaf motifs. “We sold the folk art barn within two minutes of the field opening on Saturday,” said McClosky. Sales included an American feather tree and a Pennsylvania folk art horse and sleigh.
R.C. Bowen, York, Maine, brought a selection of delftware candlesticks, tinsel pictures, portrait miniatures, Staffordshire, colored shot glasses and biscuit tins. “I had excellent sales all day long [on Saturday], which started right off with the sale of my most important piece – a wonderful hooked rug to a private client,” said Bowen.
Bowen added praise for Gould’s “excellent managerial skills” in the face of a very adverse pack-out, and reflected that despite the usual complaints that arise with doing an outdoor show, “I am sure we will all be back, ready and raring to go next year again. Antiques dealers are a hardy and stubborn breed of folk, and we soon forget how awful things can be during the course of a show and look forward with all eagerness to the next one.”
The next Wilton antiques show, an indoor event called the Wilton DAR Antiques Marketplace, will feature approximately 120 dealers in the Wilton Field House, Sunday, September 21.
For information, 203-762-7257.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm