Published: December 11, 2015
Review And Photos by Hollie Davis
RICHMOND, IND. — With a crowd lined up, Christmas music piping from the speakers and a vague threat of icy weather, it might have seemed like a Midwestern Black Friday sale was underway at the Heartland Fall Antique Show at the Wayne County Fairgrounds November 21. Despite forecasts for sleet and snow and a smaller exhibitor list than the June session (85 exhibitors in a single building as opposed to closer to 140 dealers in two buildings), a dedicated crowd turned out to shop the aisles.
They certainly found plenty of variety. That is the appeal of the show, said dealer Fred Henderson, Sharpsville, Ind., and was certainly reflected in his booth, which highlighted objects from an Eighteenth Century New England chair to late Nineteenth Century Christmas decorations, from old leather-bound books to stick spatter. “If you come in my booth and don’t see something that interests you, then you probably shouldn’t be at an antique show,” he said, and that could certainly be said of the entire Heartland show. While the show’s lineup is traditionally slated toward the Midwest, with dealers from 16 states, including Connecticut, Florida, and Texas, shoppers find the Midwestern country pieces and folk art that have made the show so popular, as well as pieces with a more modern touch.
Dealer Betty Bell of Dallas was at the fall edition of show for the first time and her booth was filled with Christmas cheer — feather trees, kugels and Belsnickles galore. Her inaugural trip to the show had been in the summer where, she says, she did well. “Everybody kept saying, ‘Are you coming back?’ so that made me feel good!” Customers were clearly glad she was back as well. Collectors of Christmas-related antiques like Ohio collector and publisher of Celebrate 365 Connie Porcher were stopping to browse and buy.
Carol Schulman, Chester Township, Ohio, offered a fine selection of fraktur on her wall, as well as a selection of woodenwares, while Bob Zordani of Z and K Antiques, Urbana, Ill., made effective use of his booth space, with dramatic quilts and coverlets serving as backdrops and table coverings. Karen Fults of Signature Antiques N Art, Lakeview, Ohio, made good use of color, contrasting yellowware with a cupboard in old blue paint and was glad to have brought along a variety, having already made several sales. “Weirdly, glass and ceramics are selling, although it’s a country paint show,” she said.
Heartland’s dealers are as loyal as the customers. Jane Langol, Medina, Ohio, laughed when she remembered the early days of the show. “I began back when it was held out in the animal barn. The first year it rained and there was a big lake right in the middle of my booth, but I’ve hung on all these years.” Those days were a far cry from Langol’s well-lit booth this time, which both honored and departed from Heartland’s country roots, with a child-size tramp art secretary and a wall of art pottery, including an Art Nouveau umbrella stand from Roseville’s Chloron line.
Bruce Lintner of Lintner Antiques, Dover, Ohio, had a booth filled with the classic Midwestern country pieces that attract Heartland’s crowd, from curly maple to old paint to treen bowls, with an unusually large pin-top table anchoring the center of his space. Knowing Heartland’s appeal was what brought Lintner to the show as a dealer several years ago. “I did Fairhaven [the Fairhaven show in Fairhaven, Ohio, which closed in 2011] and then didn’t do anything for year or two. Out of the blue, I got a good Queen Anne piece and called Jennifer [Sabin, show promoter] and she told me to come on over. Turned out to be one of the top ten shows of my life!”
As is the case with Black Friday shoppers, there are certainly early bird specials among the dealers in attendance. “It was a terrific setup for me and good so far today,” said Dan Freeburg, Wilcox, Penn., gesturing around his booth, which still held a set of six freehand-decorated half-spindle Windsors and a polychrome game board with hearts. “I had cupboards and all sorts of things.” Case pieces seemed few in number, but Toni Smith of Smith & Morgan Antiques, Clarkston, Mich., had a Nineteenth Century jelly cupboard with paint decorated panels, one of which includes a baby’s footprint. Still, she said, “We do see some holiday shoppers and they’re usually looking for smalls or things priced for less than $50.”
By midday, traffic on the floor had thinned a bit, but Nan Donovan of City Mouse Country Mouse, Cincinnati, Ohio, remained optimistic, having already sold a Rhode Island Windsor chair and a painting, among other things. “It’s a bit slow,” she said, “but a lot of our customers like to make a pass through the show first thing and then come back by after lunch.”
Weather might have been a contributing factor, too. Unlike the summer session of the show in June when the weather is typically reliable, midway through November in the Midwest can be an iffy time for travel. While the day dawned bright and clear, attendees who traveled north or west later in the day reported dangerous road conditions and traffic delays. Many dealers were also concerned as the day wore on, since as Heartland is a one-day show, almost all sellers pack up quickly when the show closes at 4, grab a quick bite and head home that same evening. Colleen Frese of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said she has been setting up at Heartland for 16 years and has many older customers. “I’m always thankful they make the trip,” she said.
For a show that has developed a reputation as offering some of the finest Midwestern decorative arts with consistent quality and variety, even the threat of a little snow could not keep many shoppers away. The Heartland show has earned a spot on Santa’s “nice” list again this year.
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