Published: July 22, 2003
On Tuesday, July 8, in the early pre-dawn hours there was already a buzz: People quickly walking along the sides of Route 20, trucks, vans, cars with trailers pulling onto lots with big signs proclaiming which field it was, when it opened. Young people wearing orange traffic safety vests, waving orange flags to attract drivers into their parking field, or waving them off when the field was full.
By 5:30 am, at first light, Brimfield was no longer a small New England village; it became once again the largest antiques market in the country. The more than 20 fields were opening for thousands of dealers to offer their antiques to the many more thousands of shoppers.
For the last 40 years, Brimfield has “happened” three times each year – May, July and September – running from Tuesday to Sunday. Each of the three weeks has a slightly different attitude. May is all business for both dealers and shoppers. That is because after the nine months since the last Brimfield there has been an enormous supply of fresh goods acquired over the winter and offered for the first time.
July, on the other hand, has a great deal of competition from many other antiques shows in the Northeast, causing many dealers to be unable to attend Brimfield. This gives spaces to some part-time dealers, those with other jobs who use time off to come for the week. Most of the Brimfield promoters can find booth space for dealers in July, whereas they often have to turn dealers away in May and September because of the time of the shows.
It also makes July much less intense, less competitive and, as such, offers some of the best buys of all three Brimfield weeks, according to several collectors and dealers. Several dealers interviewed also called July the week that the buyers “take it home.” In other words, instead of just selling to other dealers, their sales were to people adding to their own collections or furnishing homes and offices.
Weather, which can be adverse in May, in July is nearly perfect. About all the rain was at noon on Thursday, otherwise, temperatures were comfortable for summer and it was dry.
And so it began.
On Tuesday, about 15 of the more than 20 fields opened. A few are at specific times and have an admission charge but most open at sunrise.
Green Acres has a variety of spaces, including several large tents with groups of dealers who work together. One such tent is nicknamed the “Vermont Tent,” with six or eight dealers in a 40-by-60-foot space working somewhat together selling great early stuff. Jake Lenihan was among the dealers there. A Vermont native, he now lives in Rockville, Md., so his offerings were an interesting mix of northern New England and mid-Atlantic.
Another Green Acres dealer offered a Regina music box, which he claimed was the biggest model the company made. Standing almost eight feet tall, it played 27-inch diameter disks and was priced at $19,500.
Crossroads Realty is a real estate brokers office 49 weeks out of the year, but during “The Week” three times each year they fit several dealers onto their parking lot. Peter Hill of Newport, R.I., offers restored architectural rdf_Descriptions there. Brimfield Barn is another of the small, all-week fields.
For many years, Cheney’s Apple Barn was open as a farm stand most of the year but filled with antiques on the market weeks. Under new owners, the Collins Apple Barn has, among others, Liz Curry from West Middlesex, Penn.
Heart of the Mart is among the big fields with several hundred spaces available on Wednesday. Their spaces on the highway, opening at dawn Tuesday, include Bill and Kay Puchstein from Ohio and Greg Kramer from Pennsylvania.
The Stewarts from Narragansett, R.I., had their usual large space at The Meadows. Among their furniture pieces was an early corner cupboard in cherry, with a glass top door. A quick inspection revealed that it appeared to be original. Another tent featured Geoff Jackson, an Englishman from Pennsylvania, with Nineteenth Century English porcelain dishes, and Larry Baum, Sumter, S.C., who had an early southern made desk in crotch grain mahogany veneer. Robert Shelton, Sandy Hook, Conn., always has a big collection of early furniture in “as found” condition.
Tom and Lori Faxon have three facilities at Brimfield. Midway and Dealer’s Choice are fields, and the Brimfield Antiques Center is a multi-dealer shop. Midway opens with Tuesday’s sunrise, closing on Sunday. Dealer’s Choice opens on Tuesday at 11 am, and for a few hours it is extremely busy with between 400 to 600 dealers able to set up there.
New England Motel opens its fields on Wednesday, but in front of the motel is one of the food courts. About a dozen trailers arranged in a semi-circle offer a wide variety of food. Curiously, in the middle is an automatic teller machine, also known as the “Cashmobile” for those who run out. A handwritten message on one of its windows says “No cash is kept in this vehicle overnight.”
Central Park, an all-weeklong field, offered room settings or elaborate shop displays. Rae McCarthy had many early clocks, all running, as well as some furniture. Cy and Judi Stellmach were there with American country-style furniture and furnishings; they also moved to several other fields during the week. Bill Kelly, Limington, Maine, began his week at Central Park but he, too, moved around.
House of Windsor, Kent, England, dealer brings a container to Shelton’s.
Dealer’s Choice opened at 11 am on Tuesday, and Brimfield Acres North at 1 pm. Both are large capacity fields with hundreds of exhibitors.
At Dealer’s Choice, a hanging corner cupboard, circa 1800, in pumpkin pine sold in the first minutes; the seller found it only days before at a yard sale. Susan Gault, Thetford Center, Vt., set up for the first day of the week, moving each day to another field. Ohio dealer Tom Delach sold a crewel work of an early sailing ship.
Brimfield North, as it is called, had Dave and Bonnie Ferriss of Lake Luzerne, N.Y., offering a collection of trade signs and symbols. Ken and Jan Silveri sold some quilts here, then moved for Wednesday.
Wednesday is the opening for three more shows. New England Motel and Antiques Market at 6 am; Heart of the Mart at 9 am; and Jeanne Hertan’s Antiques Shows at noon.
Z’s Antiques offered late Nineteenth Century hardwood furniture, while the Smiths of West Springfield, Mass., went from Federal style to late Victorian wicker at New England Motel. A few years ago, a metal roof shed was built to give shelter to about 20 dealers and their merchandise. William Warner offered Regency and Victorian hardwood veneer furniture there.
Paul Baker, Putnam Valley, N.Y., offered older pottery at Heart of the Mart, and John McVey, Windsor, Conn., had early tools. Field owner Pam Moriarty was directing traffic in a late morning rain.
At Hertan’s, Hilary Nolan offered a small boat called a sailing sneak. Circa 1900, it was used by hunters to quietly sail up to waterfowl. Jackie Sideli, a dealer and show promoter, was in a tent with high quality but utilitarian painted rdf_Descriptions, including a toleware tray. As it began raining steadily when the field opened, most of the merchandise was either in tents or covered, but sales were still brisk.
The two largest fields open on Thursday and Friday was May’s Antique Market and J & J’s Promotions, respectively.
Sales at both of these were especially brisk this month when measured by sales of antiques lately. Dealers seemed to be stocking up for some of the upcoming shows and collectors were treating themselves. Weather at these two was not a factor: summer days but not too hot on Thursday and scattered showers on Friday for the 6 am open at J & J’s.
While July Brimfield is now history, it will happen again September 2-7. There is now a group brochure produced by the promoters, which can be found in area shops at shows or by calling any of the major show promoters. Whether homeowner/collector or dealer, Brimfield is too much excrdf_Descriptionent to be missed. Most fields still have space available for those wishing to exhibit and sell, but September the shows are usually full, so do not wait too long.
To reach Brimfield, enter via Route 20. Sturbridge, Mass., is east and Palmer, Mass., is west. Hotels are in Sturbridge, Springfield or further east to Auburn and Worcester, Mass.
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