Published: June 7, 2022
Review & Photos by Rick Russack
DEERFIELD, N.H. – Klia Ververidis Crisafulli brought her Brimfield North show back to the Deerfield Fairgrounds over the Memorial Day weekend, May 28-29. This, the second time the show took place, was even better than the first one in 2021. The weather was perfect, there were more than 350 spaces occupied by vendors, and the event drew an excess of 8,000 attendees. The logistical problems experienced last year were easily eliminated by allowing two days for dealers to set up and by using a second access road to the fairgrounds for the public. Early buyers were welcomed both during the Friday afternoon set-up and on Saturday morning before the large crowd entered. It was a win-win for all. The fairgrounds are huge, and dealers could set up in buildings, or outdoors, with many able to take advantage of spaces under the shade trees and the extra space the layout allowed. The show was heavily promoted on social media, which may account for the diversified attendees. Many of the exhibitors we spoke with were from nearby New Hampshire towns and do a few other shows.
As far as what items were available to shoppers, the answer would be similar if asked to describe what might be found at a Brimfield show: “close to everything.” There were antiques, decorative items, and select craft items. Vendors, several of whom had never done this or any other show before, brought garden furniture and accessories, collectible bicycles, art pottery, midcentury furniture and accessories, vintage toys, vintage glassware and kitchen items, vintage clothing, rugs, folk art, works by self-taught artists, quilts and more. There were 15 food trucks. It’s a chicken or the egg question: does the eclectic selection of merchandise draw an eclectic crowd or is it the other way around? Whatever the answer, there were older shoppers easily mixing with millennials and families with teenagers and small children – some of whom were already collectors.
WMUR, the Manchester ABC affiliate, filmed part of the event, calling it “New Hampshire’s largest antique show and flea market;” a reasonable description. Crisafulli said, “We didn’t know they were coming. They probably saw our pre-show promotions and they just showed up at the gate with their video camera.”
One booth, Cobblestone Resale, Wakefield, N.H., had a very unusual group of metal and mixed media artwork by a self-taught artist, Ron Fountain, and a very unusual way of selling it. Fountain, who died recently from Covid-19, lived in Wakefield, N.H., and created and sold his work to benefit the local food pantry and the Rochester (N.H.) Museum of Art. His works were made of found materials, most of which was recyclable and painted in bright colors. Fountain once described his work: “My creations from scrap metal and discarded materials stem from the early influence of growing up during the lean years of the depression on a farm.” When asked how much the artworks were being sold for, Rose Baxter said, “We ask that people make us an offer – the most they can afford, and if it seems reasonable, we sell it. All the money, above costs like booth rent, is given to the food bank. We also accept cash donations for the food bank.”
After the show had been open a few hours Saturday morning, Baxter said she had sold several pieces to people who made offers and that other people were considering making “purchases.” Fountain’s work was displayed at the Gaffney Museum, Sanbornton, N.H., in 2011. She said they had sold a few pieces – one for $50 – “because that’s what the person could afford.”
Business was done in the more traditional manor by Beth and Patrick Heffernan, Walpole, N.H. This was the first show the couple had ever done. Most of their very colorful, tin outdoor ornaments and furniture was made in Mexico and was not old. You could not miss the large, painted tin rooster, which was about 6 feet tall and priced $600. A smaller one was priced $150. When asked how the business came to be, Beth responded, “We used to live in Texas, not far from Mexico, and we saw a lot of these creations. We recently moved to New Hampshire, and we decided to see if we could make a business out of selling these. It’s all very colorful and well-made and we’re getting a good reaction.”
A Manchester group shop, Antiques on Elm – just a short walk from the hotel that will host the New Hampshire Dealers Show in August – had a large booth filled with merchandise from their shop. Included was stoneware, yellowware, fruit jars, dolls, vintage clothing and more. Don Peterson and his son Daniel were alsotrying their first show. Dan has been collecting vintage bicycles for about ten years and decided it was time to start selling some. He had a selection dating from about 1963 to 1990 and had priced them between $75 and $125.
While conversing with Chris and Lady G (she said her last name is unpronounceable, so she uses Lady G) from Boston, they said that for the last few years they have participated in an event we had never heard of: “The World’s Longest Yard Sale,” which is 690 miles long. They said it’s a four-day event in August and stretches along US Route 127 from Michigan to Georgia and yard sales are set up on both sides of the highway and there are hundreds – if not thousands – of sellers that set-up. It has its own website www.127yardsale.com, named after the road it follows), and they said they’ve met shoppers from as far away as California who have come just for the event. “There can be anything from farm equipment to antiques. You gotta see it to believe it.” They’re probably right.
We mentioned that there are select craft vendors. One such was George Merrill, Dry Dock Designs, Enfield, N.H. Merrill makes small decorative boats from found materials – wood, metals, etc. – and displayed them as wall hangings. He’s been making them for about four or five years and began when he inherited a barn full of old wood and was thinking about what he could do with it. He’s a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and exhibited at their large craft show at Lake Sunapee in August 2021. Deerfield was his first antique show. His boats are priced between $75 and $350, and business has been good since he was featured on the television show New Hampshire Chronicle a few weeks ago. After the show, he said he had sold about a dozen boats.
Crisafulli believes, as many do, that attracting young collectors is something that must be done. She came up with a unique program to interest the youngest attendees at the show: a scavenger hunt. Staff at the admission booths, when seeing that a family had youngsters with them, encouraged the youngsters and their families to participate in an “interactive scavenger hunt,” with prizes awarded to those completing the assignments. Exhibitors were made aware of the program and agreed to participate. The youngsters were given an instruction sheet which required that they visit ten booths, ask ten questions, and take photographs. The instructions were similar to these examples:
1. Take a picture of a clock. Ask the vendor what kind of clock it is and when it was made.
2. Take a picture of your favorite vintage toy. Ask the vendor when it was made.
3. Take a picture of your most favorite thing!
Between 30 and 40 kids and families completed the hunt and received the prize, which was cotton candy from one of the food vendors.
After the show, Crisafulli noted that the logistical changes made a more enjoyable event. “We heard a lot of positive comments, and there were even some emails, about how smooth the set-up was. The extra time also allowed us to spend time with our new, mostly younger, exhibitors. Some had never done a show before and we were able to assist with basic advice. I think it’s really important that we, as show managers, do that. And the scavenger hunt was really fun for everyone and appreciated by our vendors. The social media and print promotion we did really reached the people we wanted to reach. Last year was an experiment for us to see how this kind of show would be received. The response answers that question. We’ll certainly be back next year and perhaps we’ll be able to have a fall show.”
For information, 781-420-3375, https://www.loc8nearme.com/new-hampshire/deerfield/deerfield-fair/6728627/ or www.facebook.com/events/deerfield-fair/brimfield-antique-show-flea-market-deerfield-nh/171861744466524/.
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