Published: June 8, 2021
Review and photos by Rick Russack
DEERFIELD, N.H. – The title of this article could easily have been “build it and they will come,” the oft-misquoted line from the motion picture Field of Dreams. Klia Ververidis Crisafulli, who bought Hertan’s field in Brimfield in January 2020, had a brilliant idea and it worked just the way she hoped – and the way the baseball field in the movie did. Since most Brimfield shows were cancelled in May, she wanted a location for a May show that would provide her dealers and others with a solid opportunity to make up for income lost due to the pandemic. She wanted a well-known, easily accessible venue for a show, so she rented the Deerfield, N.H., fairgrounds for the Memorial Day weekend. One could reasonably expect, by that time of year, good weather for an indoor/outdoor show. Instead, on Saturday, May 29, the opening day, the temperature was in the mid-forties, it was raining and windy. The second day was no better; cold, rainy and windy.
The result? Thousands (yes, thousands) of buyers arrived and filled the aisles. One exhibitor commented, “I’m from the South. This weather is awful, but people up here just put on a few extra layers of clothing and it doesn’t bother them at all.” The traffic jam of people arriving on the first day caused the Deerfield police to think about temporarily closing the show. With their cooperation, the problem was solved and by the time the show was over, more than 9,000 people had come through the gates; just under 6,000 on the first day and a little more than 3,200 on the second day.
Response from dealers wanting space for a Memorial Day weekend show surprised Crisafulli, but she had the use of the entire fairgrounds, so she made space for all and wound up with more than 300 dealers. It was an ambitious undertaking since, in fact, this was her first show as each of the Brimfields since she purchased Hertan’s had been cancelled. A show of that size at a facility that large required detailed planning and a large staff. There were some minor glitches in getting all dealers to their spaces, but there was little grumbling as dealers commented that minor problems were not unexpected in a first show. Eventually, all were moved in, as the weather cooperated for the set-up day. Some changes will be made for future shows, based on lessons learned.
Americana, country furniture, woodenware, stoneware and more were offered by the majority of dealers, but Crisafulli expanded the range of dealers so the range of merchandise broadened and included vintage clothing, midcentury furniture and accessories, dolls, hooked rugs, some crafts and contemporary items, architectural salvage, holiday items, outdoor furniture and garden items, license plates, posters, record albums, vintage bicycles, and there was much more. Several Antiques Week in New Hampshire dealers participated. The fairgrounds has several buildings and Crisafulli sublet three to Sage Farm Antiques, longtime promoter of shows in North Hampton, N.H. Sharyl Murphy, Sage Farm owner, said that she had 28 of her regular dealers and that their focus tended towards a good mix of dolls, holiday items, along with design and home décor items, both vintage and contemporary. The overall mix and extensive use of social media drew a large number of younger buyers, which all show managers hope to attract, and folks came willing to spend money. A total of 3,100 tickets had been sold online prior to the show. Many buyers were obviously experienced Brimfield shoppers as many brought their own shopping carts and wagons to haul off their purchases.
Mike Whittemore, who now lives in Florida, is well known for dealing in folk art, weathervanes and American furniture. For this show, he shifted his emphasis and filled the back wall of his booth with contemporary artwork by Terry Hares of Auburn, N.Y. She often works in a relatively new, unusual medium known as fractal burning, reminiscent of pyrography, and the examples that Whittemore offered could remind one of seaweed or lightning strikes. The technique involves coating a wooden surface with an electrically conductive solution and then applying high voltage electricity to the surface. The result is a textured, whitish background, with designs on the surface in shades of black and brown. Whittemore’s examples were priced $195-$295 and could easily go with almost any furnishings, including early American or painted country furniture.
Treen was available in several booths. Oliver Garland, Falmouth, Mass., usually brings interesting, early smalls. This time, his offerings included a 16-inch burl bowl with a tight grain. The price was $1,200. The Nathan Hale Antique Center, Coventry, Conn., shared space with some of the group shop’s dealers. Nancy Breyer had a selection of treen bowls, scoops, ladles and more. Prices ranged from $195-$395. Cloth animals and early cloth dolls were also available in several booths. Nancy and Gene Pratt had a selection of animals, including a very folky dog, and they were priced between $85 and $175 – the dog was in the more expensive category.
There was plenty of good folk art. Although there were several weathervanes at the show, the one that Steve Still, Manheim, Penn., had may have been the best. It was an early horse and sulky with a driver, and its small size and good surface made it well worth the $5,800 asking price. He also had a mid-Nineteenth Century watercolor of a New England mill town. It was unsigned but had detailed mill buildings and houses, a railroad train, track, river and more. He had not been able to identify the town, but it had come from eastern Massachusetts. A water stain may have kept the price down to $2,850. At the other end, timewise, for weathervanes, was a large, hollow copper figure of an early baseball player. Bill Gittes, Barrington, N.H., said it was contemporary and he priced it at $450.
Several booths offered an assortment of life-size animal figures. Butch Fortier, Jantiques, Bridgeton, N.J., had fiberglass moose, elk cows, pigs, sheep deer and more. The large moose and elk were priced at $1,500, deer were priced $475, as were cows. They weren’t old but they were detailed and painted. A buyer Saturday morning, in the rain, bought several.
After the show, Crisafulli said, “It was quite an experience. When I first thought about doing a show in Deerfield, I never expected the response we had. My first press releases said that we expected 100-150 dealers, but we wound up with more than 300 signed up. A few were deterred by the weather, but there were still 280 exhibitors on the field. We certainly did not anticipate attracting more than 9,000 buyers. Obviously, there’s a pent-up demand from both dealers and collectors. We promoted heavily on Facebook and other social media, and you could see the result of that – so many younger buyers. And with that number of dealers, there really was something for everyone. The weather was lousy both days, but buying was strong both days. Stuff was being hauled out in bags, wagons and trucks.
“It was a learning experience for us, especially getting all the dealers to their spaces. It was slower than I thought it would be. That was partly because some dealers were very fussy about their spaces. One told me there were too many tree roots in the way, and one said I had to find another space for them because his wife was superstitious about the booth number. Dealing with those concerns, one by one, was time consuming. But we learned. Next time, we’ll have a two-day set-up and dealers will have an assigned time slot to arrive. That should eliminate the wait some had. I can’t tell you how many dealers told me they had a really good show, and one, on Saturday, after all that rotten weather, said it was the best show he’s ever had. The size of the crowd was amazing – that’s the only word. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but someone said to me that the weekend was the coldest Memorial Day weekend since 1905. I could believe that.”
She went on to say, “The Deerfield police were really cooperative and good to work with. And, yes, after seeing how this show did, we’ll be back next year. We’re also looking for a facility for a fall show. It probably can’t be Deerfield because of the fair, but I’ve already been contacted by other venues and we’ll check them out to see what gives us the best fit. “
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