Published: September 30, 2003
Five thousand exhibiting dealers converged on this small central Massachusetts town in vans, trailers, trucks and wagons loaded with a fresh supply of Americana. Antiques found throughout the Northeast United States and parts of Canada were put out for sale – in many cases, for the last time this year. That is because after September, Brimfield’s year is over. Pack up and wait until next year.
The dates for the September edition were Tuesday, September 2, through Sunday, September 7. As readers may already know, Brimfield is a town where about 40 years ago antiques flea markets began in an auctioneer’s parking lot. It then just grew like Topsy.
Today, there are more than 20 separate “fields,” as they are called, each offering from a dozen to as many as 750 exhibit spaces. Brimfield is both casual and rough and tumble; it happens no matter what the weather or world conditions may be. And so it did in September.
Earliest buying that morning was concentrated on the free entry fields, including Quaker Acres, the Meadows, Central Park and others. Larry Baum of Sumter, S.C., Geoff Jackson from Pennsylvania, Art Wolf from North Carolina and Don Schweikert shared a large tent at the Meadows. Their sales were brisk. Wolf was very happy with the dollar volume but he said it was “all small stuff.” Jackson only sells dishes, English porcelain, and he said he was doing “ok.”
Another large tent nearby houses about six dealers all from Vermont, including Greg Hamilton from Vergennes. He had a large early Nineteenth Century bookcase, about six feet tall and four feet wide, glass doors, in great condition. In checking the tent later in the week, the bookcase was missing, presumably having found a new home.
Many Brimfield fields are organized early Tuesday with elaborate exhibits in large tents, more or less a room setting or perhaps an old general merchandise store. When so organized, the booth is usually staffed by more than one person so that the dealers can take turns shopping. In one such booth there was a large collection of painted Nineteenth Century furniture and accessories, art on the walls, textiles and vintage clothing, all attractively displayed. The only problem was, there no one available to discuss the merchandise. Trusting folks.
At about 10:15 am on Tuesday, the rain stopped, and although it never was great weather, it improved by 11 am for Dealer’s Choice. And at 1 pm, it was downright balmy when Brimfield North opened. Each of these fields at the western end of the activity had several hundred exhibitors who were selling fairly well.
As the week progressed, more fields opened. Tuesday the total was 19, three more on Wednesday, one each on Thursday and Friday and all reopened on Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, all had left.
The 24-field total does not include two events conducted that same week at the Host Hotel in nearby Sturbridge, Mass. On Monday, there was the Antique Textile and Vintage Clothing Show (Reviewed in a separate article elsewhere), and on Thursday, Nan Gurley’s Sturbridge Antiques Show was underway.
At Gurley’s Sturbridge show, there was a large one-piece step back cupboard, open top, one-door bottom with early H-L hinges for $2,485; a wall table of the kind that folds flat against the wall, in red milk paint offered by Newsom and Berdan; and a Star of Bethlehem quilt, white with bright colors in the star offered by David Drummond, Lititz, Penn.
Back in Brimfield, by Wednesday, both the weather and crowd size had improved, although scattered showers kept the shoppers moving. New England Motel is in fact the grounds of a small motel, but it opened at 6 am to a large crowd for shopping. Likewise for Heart-O-The-Mart at 9 am and Jeanne Hertan Antique Shows at noon.
Weather was bad again early Thursday morning, but at the 9 am opening of May Antique Market, with more than 600 dealer spaces, the showers were almost over.
Among the “great finds” at May’s on Thursday was a bedstead, head and foot boards with Pennsylvania Amish carvings from the late Eighteenth Century, $975 from John Baron; an early New York fireplace mantel with double column sides and reed detailing in crown from Dennis Bakoledis, Rhinebeck, N.Y.; and a tramp art frame measuring about 21/2 feet wide and 3 feet tall for $1,250.
When Brimfield week was over, a large sampling of dealers were asked how they did. The overwhelming response was that their results were not overwhelming, but they seemed to have sold enough to get through till next year.
The 2004 dates for Brimfield are May 11-16, July 6-11 and September 7-12. A Brimfield Show Promoters Association guide that outlines the show schedules is available from each of the promoters. Contact any of them for a copy.
And be at that wide spot on the road, Route 20, 90 miles west of Boston, next May.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm