Published: April 18, 2017
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
DANIELSON, CONN. – Northeastern Connecticut is known as the Quiet Corner, not for want of charm but because it is sometimes overshadowed by the voluble population centers to the north, south and west. As it turns out, the Quiet Corner has a show so soft-spoken that before Saturday, April 1, I had never been to it. Now I wonder how I ever missed it.
Organized by Jan Praytor and approaching its third decade, Country Antiques in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner is exceptional in both conception and execution. Held at Danielson’s H.H. Ellis Technical High School, roughly equidistant from Worcester and Providence, it is assembled by students. The carpentry department builds the booths and the electrical department wires them. Culinary students help with the catering. There are jobs for the plumbing department and the custodial staff. Students volunteer as porters, a task they do with such efficiency and courtesy that dealers delight in tipping them.
The esprit de corps carries over to exhibitors, all of whom deal in one aspect or another of country Americana. What we are told is called a “brown” show is rich in rustic pine furniture, some of it in old paint, some of it scrubbed; quilts, hooked rugs, samplers, baskets and snatches of homespun; trade signs and game boards; early lighting, tools, hearth equipment and kitchenalia; redware, stoneware and Bennington pottery; plus a smattering of paintings, prints, toys and vintage Christmas décor. It seems a miracle that this show survives in this form 40 years after the country Americana craze first got underway.
A line formed to enter for early buying at 9 am and again for general admission at 10 am. Attendance was steady through the day and sales were good, this notwithstanding the drizzly weather. Buyers travel from as far away as Seattle. Many patrons are also regulars at the August shows in New Hampshire.
Praytor, who heads the special education department at the Ellis School, is originally from New Orleans. As she explained, “My father was an architect and I just fell in love with country antiques down there. I was initially attracted to Shaker design, but by the time I was in my twenties I had evolved into blue paint and textiles. I loved textiles because I sewed.”
She continued, “I moved up here around 1983 and was smitten with Connecticut’s little Granby and Avon shows, which were chock-full of country. I was teaching at the Ellis School and we decided to do an antiques show as a fundraiser in the early 1990s. We tried to get a promoter here, but we were out of the way and no one was really interested, so we did it ourselves. Because we were a technical school, we had carpenters and electricians and were able to do a lot ourselves. We even got lumber donated. We went to the Tolland Antiques Show and begged exhibitors to give us a try. Now we are back for our 26th time.”
From 25 exhibitors in one room and a $400 profit, Country Antiques in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner has grown to include 60 exhibitors spread out in three rooms. The fair is held during the school’s spring break, which allows for a leisurely one-day set up with plenty of time for trading.
Several exhibitors are themselves promoters. One of them, Brian Ferguson of Ferguson and D’Arruda – manager of the Tiverton, East Hampton, Little Compton and Golden Ball Tavern shows – set up in the cafeteria adjacent to Cape Cod dealer Priscilla Hutchinson and across from John Gould of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and Daniel and Karen Olson of Newburgh, N.Y.
Ferguson said, “This is an amazing little show. It is very focused on early Americana and very well patronized. There is always a great audience here.” Ferguson sold a variety of merchandise, from a flattop highboy with scalloped skirt to early garments. One happy customer came by his stand with bags containing a Victorian crazy quilt and a needlepoint bell pull.
Steve German of Mad River Antiques, one of a handful of exhibitors who do the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show the weekend before, said, “It is one of the best small country shows in Connecticut, something we hear a lot from our customers. It is a very quick show, as well. Some very good dealers bring very good things. We sold some things and bought some things, so we were happy. Jan does a marvelous job putting it together.”
Is there such a thing as too much country? Not according to Praytor. As the organizer put it, “From my perspective, that is what has allowed us to survive. A lot of shows have fallen by the way. There are people out there who just love country and they find us. If we were not doing well, our dealers would not come back year after year.”
For more on Country Antiques in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, www.countryantiqueshow.com or 860-774-8511.
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