Published: October 26, 2010
It was billed as the “Fun Fair,” and it was just that. An extra-large exhibition space, 500-plus exhibitors, a selection of objects that ran from soup to nuts and a promoter abounding with energy. And it all took place in two days for the public, October 9 and 10, with two additional days of setup for the dealers at the Philadelphia Expo Center.
“We did it, we filled the space at the Expo Center as planned,” Norman Schaut, show promoter said, “but the attendance fell short of what we anticipated and expected. The opening gate at 9 am Saturday was okay, and people trickled in for the rest of the day. Sunday was disappointing, and we came up with a total of just over 7,000 visitors.” The line on the first day ran across the front half of the building and down one side, measuring one fifth of a mile.
Many of the dealers and visitors described the Fun Fair as a close reflection of the former Atlantique City show, the highly successful event in Atlantic City, N.J., that drew crowds in the thousands and was the brainchild of Norm Schaut.
Dealers in the Fun Fair presented many interests that varied in quality, from the top rung of the ladder to a few rungs from the bottom. Toys of cast iron, wood and tin were plentiful, large and small dolls †one priced at $35,000 was sold on Sunday †were dressed in many different styles, all kinds of advertising material was available, and pins †in great numbers †ranged from comic figures to politicians and from hunting and fishing licenses to beer and car makers.
Pumpkins, black cats and witches on broomsticks all warned of the approaching Halloween holiday, and lots of Santa figures, feather trees and old ornaments were there for the Christmas collector. Hundreds of tins carried the labels of food manufacturers, slot machines were in good working order, and early sand pails were colorfully decorated.
B.J. Pawlaczyk of Au Gres, Mich., who lists himself as a dealer in “antique boat motors, wooden boats, early bicycles, antique bicycle motors and other cool stuff that belongs in a museum,” came directly to the Fun Fair from the car show in Hershey, Penn., where, “I show my outboard motors every year and find it a good venue,” B.J. said. How many motors does he have, both for sale and in his own collection? “I have no idea,” he said, “as number don’t matter. What counts is rarity and I probably have the best collection in the world.” Much of his collection can be seen in a just released book, The American Rowboat Motor by Arlan Carter.
James Lavine of Kewanee, Ill., who brought a selection of furniture, including an upholstered easy chair and a large apothecary, noted, “This show has the best selection of toys on the planet and you need a big pile of people to buy them.” Another dealer regretted not having her rollerblades at the show, commenting, “They sure would have come in handy covering the miles and miles of booths Norman has lined up.” She added, “I used them all of the time at Atlantique City.”
The sign read “Steven’s Hobby” and there was no question about what interested Steven †Hummels. The Indianapolis, Ind., dealer appears to have cornered the market, with tables filled with the figures at the front of the booth and a series of seven stepped shelves, close to 20 feet long each, across the back of the booth with figures standing shoulder to shoulder in lines.
Loy Harrell of Hawk’s Nest Antiques & Decoys, Hinesburg, Vt., brought some country to the Fun Fair with a set of six bow back Windsor armchairs, a large tavern table with one drawer and scrubbed top and a couple of copper weathervanes.
Women were attracted to the booth of SPQR Antiques/Branded Luxury, Hellertown, Penn., checking out the large collection of vintage handbags and luggage, while men were drawn to the sporting goods offered by two of the exhibitors, Malchione Sporting Antiques, Kennett Square, Penn., and Sport & Spool Antiques of Goldsboro, N.C., who opted for the Fun Fair over Rhinebeck that was on the same weekend.
“I was a one-man band for most of the six months we had planning the Fun Fair and I guess I missed a few things, but that won’t happen again,” Norm Schaut said. “Gail Evans, my show director; Mary Lee Janto, office manager; and I will be working full time on the next Fun Fair in April 2011, and we intend to fill those wide aisles with people.” He recalls that the attendance for Atlantique City tripled between the first and second show, and “we are aiming to do the same with the Fun Fair.”
“We are going to make it happen,” the 77-year-old entrepreneur said, “and we are already off to a fine start.” He mentioned that 271 of the current Fun Fair exhibitors turned in contracts for both 2011 shows before leaving the Expo Center, and another 93 signed up for the April event only. The date for the spring Fun Fair is April 9‱0, joining the other two antiques shows in Philadelphia during the same timeframe, and the dates for the fall show, either late October or early November, will be announced.
“There will be some positive additions to the Fun Fair next year, including two entrances, a floor plan to aid visitors in finding their favorite dealers, probably different hours and lots of chairs for those who get tired walking the show,” Norm said.
“I worry about our shortcomings, but those we will correct. What is most important is that it was a happy reunion for many of the dealers who have not seen each other for a long time, and I can’t count the number of people who came to me saying that I had put the fun back into antiques shows,” Norm said.
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