Published: May 28, 2019
BRIMFIELD, MASS. – For one week three times each year, this town of approximately 4,000 residents swells with the influx of thousands of shoppers attending the largest outdoor antiques show in New England. Brimfield Week takes over for six days in May, July and September. All editions are weather-independent; that is, it is a rare meteorological event that cancels commerce on the 20 or so separate shows lining both sides of the main stretch of Route 20, especially the spring edition, which exhibits all the pent-up fervor of a sporting event.
And so it was this year, May 14-19, as drenching rains turned some fields into vehicle-entrapment areas and caused shoppers to adopt all manner of innovative schemes to stay relatively dry while combing the markets for their heart’s desire. Collectively, Brimfield is entering its 60th year in 2019, and by all accounts, as you’ll see in the following pages, it’s as spry as ever.
Dealer’s Choice is a one-day show that takes place on the first day of Brimfield Markets. As luck had it, two days of heavy rain had soaked the field, making it partially impassable to many dealers, some of whom had left deep ruts in the grass. Despite the soggy field and bone-chilling temperatures, dealers and shoppers alike seemed in good spirits, with buying taking place throughout the early hours. “This is Brimfield…it is what it is!” was a common refrain and typifies the enthusiasm for antiques and treasure seekers who make the semiannual pilgrimage to this corner of the world and who refused to be deterred by a little inclement weather.
That said, because large parts of the field were simply too soggy to set up in, the market had large gaps and several vendors who are normally there were no-where to be seen. Others who were able to show up sought drier ground from where they are typically assigned, and many vendors opted to sell straight out of their vans and trailers. “At least we are open,” was another frequently heard comment, a reference to the closure of the field across the street, Brimfield Acres North, which usually opens up before 6 am, stayed closed until 1 pm.
The Midway antiques show continues throughout the run of the Brimfield Antiques shows. Though a small portion of the field was inaccessible, most of the dealers who had planned to be there were on hand and ready for buyers. Many of the booths at Midway offer a varied selection of collectibles, vintage and antique items, as well as some reproductions.
One of the largest tents in Midway is shared by Ross Brothers, James H. LeFurgy and David Erickson, all of whom have been doing the show for decades, and the atmosphere in the tent is one of jovial camaraderie. Ross Brothers, Florence, Mass., had boats and canoes, antiques, architectural salvage and “other unusual items,” a handy catch-all phrase that covers the rest of the bases, including a vintage Jeep that was sitting in front of the tent, just off the road. Lefurgy, Wiscasset, Maine, ticked off a variety of sales he had made in the first few hours of the show: a carved wooden busk, a Pomo basket, a Kachina doll, a painting of Storm King and a miniature blanket chest.
One is unlikely to see one of Erickson’s restored stoves being hauled in one of Brimfield’s ubiquitous wagons. Erickson, a fixture at Brimfield, has been doing all three shows for 36 years. When asked if he has ever sold a stove at Brimfield, the Littleton, Mass., dealer could not recall but said the show is great advertising for him and a place where he can start a conversation with potential buyers.
New England Motel
The Motel, as folks call it, opened bright and early at 6 am as the first show to open on Wednesday, May 15, with more than 400 dealers on hand. Managed by brothers Bobby and John Doldoorian, the show features an eclectic mix of offerings that is unique among fields found throughout the week.
Here we have both new and old, both the repurposed and the collectible, the distinguished work of art and the affordable decorative accent. The Motel is a place of great diversity.
More than 75 dealers found cover among the pavilions, some of the only roof-over-head structures on the entire strip. And those that were inside them – one of the largest groupings of jewelry dealers selling throughout the whole week, as well as antique furniture, clothing, fine art, lighting, ceramic, antiquities and Asian arts dealers – all reported fine shows. When faced with rain, it seems buyers are inclined to stick around the dealers with a roof over their heads.
A strong gate welcomed the 350 sellers in Heart-O-The-Mart as the second show to open on Wednesday, May 15, cracked its gates at 9 am. The day would turn out to be the finest day of the week to attend Brimfield, as it was essentially the eye of the storm, with all other days of the week seeing rainfall.
“Usually May is a great gate,” said show manager Pam Moriarty, who runs the field with her husband Don. “And we had a better gate because yesterday was so bad and rainy, maybe people put off coming until today.”
Many sellers on the field posted good shows. Some were crowing that dollar-for-dollar, the Brimfield shows produce a better return than some of the better-known antiques shows.
Buyers and sellers at this year’s show received the great gift of field-wide WiFi provided by Moriarty. With cellular coverage sometimes spotty around Brimfield, buyers were grateful. It also aids in field research and being able to look up an artist or sale records on the web prior to purchasing.
Sellers were also treated to food delivery by two vendors on the field. Instead of leaving their booth to buy food and bring it back, two vendors on the field would deliver food to sellers.
Ten minutes before the opening bell rang, buyers were idly waiting, having already crowded into the tree-covered aisles at Hertan’s Antiques Shows on Wednesday, May 15. Small crowds built as competing buyers stood outside of their favorite booths. As soon as the noon bell rang, booths started shedding their walls and letting the buyers in to browse. And then sold tickets started flying.
“It went very well; we had challenging weather Monday and Tuesday before the show, but Wednesday and Thursday were favorable, and we had excellent crowds. Vendors said they did well,” said show manager David Lamberto.
“We did adhere much more strictly to our opening time of noon,” he continued, referring to the field’s rule that not a single sale can transpire before the opening bell. “Last year it was a little lax. So we had everyone adhere to that rule and had a lot of energy at the opening because of it.”
The 150-dealer show sees a good mix of Americana, folk art, advertising, country primitives, Midcentury Modern, silver, brassware, stoneware, decorative items, clothing toys, games and collectibles.
May’s Gets The Weather Break
Thursday morning was the usual opening for May’s Antique Market, one of the original markets on the street and still owned and operated by the same family, although the next generation. It was also the first day of the week to have decent weather, no rain falling on buyers, sellers and fields. As such, the response from the public that morning appeared to be the best of the entire week, for it did indeed rain heavily on each of the following days.
As show manager Martha May opened the gates, the crowds rushed in to see Tom Nagy, Chelsea Hill Antiques, and many members of his family rapidly pulling out their collection of antique furniture and fine art. One “gem,” according to Tom, was a wood carving, which he dated to the Eleventh Century, in very good condition except for a few missing fingers on the Christ child. This Hampton, Conn., dealer found the piece earlier in the week at Brimfield.
The Kennedys from Troxelville, Penn., had a great time selling from an inventory dominated by early American country style. Their high-back, grain-painted dry sink sold early, along with three benches in original paint, several quilts and coverlets and two rope beds. John Kennedy said some of his sales were to the decorators for use on a movie set.
The Toy Lady from Worcester, Mass., Diane Farrar, was too busy explaining and selling her Twentieth Century toys to engage in conversation.
Karen Alexander Antiques, Enfield, Conn., opened with a flourish of sales. First was a pear-form tea caddy, followed by several others and several pieces of Georgian-era furniture.
Sarasota Estate Auctions, Sarasota, Fla., moved from field to field, but here the dealer focused on the collection of Asian artifacts. Owner Andrew Ford moved from Massachusetts to Sarasota after finishing college, establishing his business there and now has a following worldwide, including at Brimfield. His setup at May’s was specifically for his Asian collection, and he sold all the pieces offered, some of which he brought from home and others that he found at the Brimfield markets during the week.
Most of the year, W.F. Healey & Co. is a furniture restorer, but for his days at May’s he offered porcelain and glassware from the Nineteenth Century. His sales were quick and plentiful, he reported that morning.
Matthew Caffrey, Staten Island, N.Y., traded in late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century collectibles. Getting a great deal of attention were two large model airplanes from about 1950, radio-controlled and ether-fueled, as well as his showcases filled with small coins and silver.
Andrea Perretta, Canastota, N.Y., is a jewelry dealer. Her booth was so quickly filled with customers, she and her partner were helping several at a time. This was the same for House of Philippa from North Attleboro, Mass., selling vintage fashions.
Friday And Saturday At Brimfield Auction Acres
This is the third year that Rusty and Kate Corriveau, veteran show promoters who ran the Crystal Brook show before acquiring J&J, the field that started it all under the management of Gordon Reid in 1959, have run this popular show. The energetic couple is incrementally growing this show, and for the spring event certainly benefited from being at the highest elevation – not impervious to but at least mitigating some of the effects of the rainy week. More than 200 dealers were set up on the unmuddy grounds at Auction Acres, and the Friday “Brimfield Rush” at 8 am was as robust as ever.
The skies opened up with intermittent rain about an hour so later and may have deterred some of the “lookers” who prefer to shop on a sunny day, but did not much hamper the dedicated “hunter/gatherers.” “Our feedback from the dealers was all positive,” said Kate the following week. “Many told us it was the best show they’ve done in a long time.”
The Corriveaus are not resting on their laurels. In July, marking Brimfield’s 60th anniversary, they are launching a new show, an addition to the current two-day format. On Tuesday, when many of Brimfield’s free fields open for business, Auction Acres will open at 8 am, with free admission and about 100 dealers set up on the field. Kate explained that the dealers will be able to set up on a first-come, first-served basis from 4 am until 7 am on that day, guaranteeing to shoppers that no early buying has winnowed away the fresh merchandise available to them. And for dealers, she added, the cost will be very affordable.
Among a growing trend, two dealers reported to Antiques and The Arts Weekly that items were stolen from their booths in Brimfield.
Akron, Ohio, dealer Darwin Bearley reported stolen a European folk art bottle whimsy as well as a Northwest Coast carved totem. He was set up at Heart-O-The-Mart. Call 330-376-4965 with any information.
Charlie Guinipero, trading as Pantry Box Antiques from Stafford Springs, Conn., reported a mochaware pepper pot with a cat’s-eye or fish-eye decoration in blue, black, white and brown stolen. “I was in negotiations to sell it to someone down South,” Guinipero said. “It’s so hard to find something like that in perfect condition that you can make some money on.” Guinipero was set up at Hertan’s. Call 860-716-8860 with any information.
All items mentioned are pictured in this article.
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