Published: September 19, 2023
Review & Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring; W.A. Demers; & Z.G. Burnett
BRIMFIELD, MASS. — The US Postal Service creed, which begins “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night,” might be the unofficial motto for the Brimfield Antiques Flea Markets that take place in May, July and September each year, on fields straddling Route 20. Antiques and The Arts Weekly often takes a break in our Brimfield Antiques show coverage in July because of the heat. So, when the forecast for the week of September 5-10 called for hot temperatures for the first part of the week, we donned our best hot-weather clothing and sun-gear and gamely made the trek along with several thousands in this annual pilgrimage.
The air was already full of excitement and humidity on Tuesday, September 5, when the vendors of Dealer’s Choice were bracing themselves for the rush of customers that would be released at 11 am. Those who were sheltered under the pavilion in the rear of the field had some reprieve from the punishing heat, and many were jewelry dealers. Vintage clothing dealers also continued to pop up, stoking the flames of bargain hunters who jumped into piles undeterred by the stifling temperatures. Americana buyers, however, would not have been disappointed. Folk art, outsider art and other antiques were widely available. Many vendors reported better sales than they expected for the weather, especially from sales that occurred before the gates opened.
New England Motel
This was the first year the Skowyra family — Les and his sons Josh and Adam — were in charge of the New England Motel field, which opened at 6 am on Wednesday, September 6, and stayed open for the duration of the week.
A handful of new dealers joined the field, including Mikki Lessard and Nancy Feth, whose booth oHHo — so named for the two chemical compounds in cannabis — stocks plant-based products. Frederick Gay, who is originally from Switzerland but who now lives in Fairfield, Conn., was also on hand at Jangneus, a store that sells Swedish kitchen linens and other home products. Lori Frandino has been doing Brimfield for years but has recently joined the New England Motel field, selling in one of the pavilions. Within the first few hours of the show, she’d made several sales.
Several other vendors made sales as well, including an oval Midcentury Modern marble pedestal table at Flower Field Farm.
Pam and Don Moriarty saved a few spots but otherwise had a full field. When the show opened at 9 am on Wednesday, September 6, an enthusiastic if slightly smaller than usual crowd was waiting. “It’s hard to say if the heat will keep people away,” said Pam. She noted that they usually ask dealers to stay on the field until at least mid to late afternoon but said, “We’re letting dealers leave at 1 (pm).”
Mike Buchanan was making his debut at Brimfield and drove 14 hours from his home near Burlington, N.C., to be there. He owns A to Z Auctions there, which sells “a little bit of everything.” Among the standouts in his booth were an old carnival ride car and several pieces of autographed sports memorabilia.
Returning to Brimfield for just the second time was New Hampshire dealer James Donovan, who found a buyer early on in the show for a large architectural birdcage. He said he had first shown in May.
Longtime book and manuscript dealers DeWolfe & Wood reported “a good morning,” with sales of both leather books and photographs being particularly strong.
Brimfield Antique Shows (Formerly Hertan’s)
Familiar faces abounded at Brimfield Antique Shows, which is owned and managed by Klia Ververidis Crisafulli. She rings the opening bell at noon on Wednesday, September 6, and has been indefatigable in building her field’s brand with a Friday night dance party, an auction on Thursday night and different vendors — many new to Brimfield — on the weekend to attract shoppers back to the field.
“It was really hot on Wednesday and Thursday, but overall, it was great. I don’t think the heat affected our numbers much, and people were making sales throughout the weekend,” she said. “One of the nice things that I noticed was we had some good Victorian furniture in the auction and that did better than furniture has been doing lately. What was even better was that the dealers who bought it sold it all before they left the field on Sunday!”
Butch Berdan and Tom Jewett were featuring several important things, including a 2-gallon cobalt-decorated stoneware jug they attributed to Baltimore, an apothecary trade sign and a dome-top trunk from Shaftsbury, Vt. They said it was a good end to the Brimfield season, with sales of a variety of items across the board, including holiday, architectural, garden, folk art and smalls.
Vintage jewelry specialist Jen Ayres was partnering with Lilian Rogers, who specializes in plus-size clothing. It was the third time both had exhibited at Brimfield and the second they’d shared a booth.
The sweltering heat dome continued on Thursday, although you would not know it by the large crowds lining up on both sides of the entrance gates along Route 20. Wide brimmed hats, shorts and loose, light clothing, however, were de rigueur. Folks knew that if it was 80 degrees for the 9 am opening at May’s Antique Market, by 2 pm it would be Mad Dogs & Englishmen weather. Best to beat feet to one’s favorite dealer or spot on the field, grab the treasure and hightail it out of there. May’s, of course, is the field that prohibits any display of merchandise or selling before the opening bell, so despite the fact that it was a full field, according to Martha May, most of the merch was hidden beneath tarps or inside of cars and vans — except, ironically, a nearly life-size figure of Santa Claus standing stoically on a patch of grass behind the concessions building, breaking not a sweat.
“Dealers stayed through the heat,” said Martha May, the field’s owner. “It was busy and active until 4:30. They came prepared for the heat. Friday was a bit slow to start because of some heavy rain that came in. Saturday was humming.”
This September show started the 47th season for May’s, which began operation in September 1977. When asked if any changes were in store for 2024, May replied, “No.”
The dates for Brimfield 2024 have already been set: May 9-14, July 11-16 and September 5-10. For more information, www.brimfieldantiquefleamarket.com
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