Published: May 27, 2003
Story by W.A. Demers, photos by David S. Smith
BRIMFIELD, MASS. – Among the rites of spring, there may be no more compelling life force than the hajj to this small town in the heart of southern Massachusetts. Thousands once again poured in to hunt for, bargain for and, if lucky, carry away their hard won spoils during this year’s spring event May 13-18.
Brimfield comprises more than 20 separate shows and the week’s opening schedules are staggered such that a show schedule of opening times is more than just nice to have.
Beginning Tuesday when about 16 shows opened and continuing through Sunday, with the bulk of the activity winding up on Friday, both sides of Route 20 were again “fields of dreams,” attracting dealers and buyers alike for the elusive deals.
As in past years, Tuesday openings led Brimfield Week, with Central Park, Stephen’s Place, Green Acres and The Meadows opening at 6 am, several shows opening at “daybreak” – including Collins Apple Barn, Crystal Brook, Francesco’s, Mahogany Ridge, Quaker Acres, Shelton Antiques Shows and Sturtevant’s – Faxon’s Midway and Brimfield Barn Antiques Market opening at 7 am, followed by Faxon’s Treasure Chest at 9 am, Dealer’s Choice at 11 am and Brimfield Acres North at 1 pm.
On Wednesday, shoppers could add the New England Motel and Antiques Market (6 am), Heart-o-the-Mart (9 am) and Jeanne Hertan Shows (noon) to their agenda.
And then on Thursday at 9 am, crowds at both front and back entrances surged onto May’s field, the only one to open on that day. Similarly, J&J Promotions was the sole show opening on Friday and it got underway at 6 am. For those with extra stamina, Brimfield Acres, Dealer’s Choice and J&J all had Saturday sessions, beginning at 8 am for Brimfield Acres and at 9 for Dealer’s Choice and J&J. Also, Jeanne Hertan wound up the week with a Sunday session beginning at 6 am.
Unable to cover every opening, we nonetheless were able to witness eager throngs at Tuesday’s openings at Brimfield Acres North, Central Park, Dealer’s Choice, Mahogany Ridge and The Meadows, as well as Thursday’s opening at May’s. “Don’t look at anything you wouldn’t put in your own home,” became a watchword as people and merchandize blossomed on the fields during the week. It is a strategy that makes total sense when one witnesses the amazing bazaar that is Brimfield. “Brimfield is a physical endurance test,” commented one dealer, and she was right. Here there are no sedate, carefully arranged and lit room setting tableaux, no floor plans and categorized groups of dealers.
Instead, you encounter a scene such as that on Thursday, May 15, when just before the 9 am opening of May’s Antique Market, owner Dick May was patrolling the gate with cell phone in hand, barking out orders and surveying the never-ending stream of dealer vans, trucks and cars turning into his field while crowds continued to mass at both front and back entrances.
“Got a call from someone who says he’s with Bloomberg. Says he can’t get through the traffic and wants to me to send a police escort,” said May, punctuating the remark with a skeptical look that indicated that after 25 years he has seen it all before. “Is that Mayor Bloomberg?” he asked no one in particular.
Well, it may have actually been a reporter or photographer with Bloomberg’s news service, but if Gotham’s chief executive wanted to get out of town and spend this brilliantly sunny spring morning looking for antiques, who could really blame him?
Laura May, Dick’s wife, was busy, too. In fact the whole May family, including their five children and some of their 11 grandchildren, was impressed into service that morning, directing traffic, checking dealer passes, helping to orchestrate what to the untrained eye surely looks like chaos about to unwind.
“There’s a lot of quality merchandise in the field,” said Laura May, a pronouncement that, at 8:30 am, seemingly conferred the gift of clairvoyance – because everything was still unpacked, according to Mays’ strict rule prohibiting dealers from bringing out their merchandise until precisely 9 am. “No tents, tables or awnings before 9 am,” said a sign prominently stationed at the entrance. Still, at 8:45 dealers get a bit of a break as word is given that they can begin assembling the metal truss rods that will support their tents or awnings.
Bob Korhn from Springfield, N.J., whose van is loaded with artwork, said his most challenging job is setting up the pegboards that will be used to display the paintings. “But we will sell the paintings off the back of the truck until the booth is set up,” said Korhn.
It helps, of course, to have good weather, and for the most part the week was kind, with Thursday, “May’s Day,” the pick of the litter, meteorologically speaking. “The dealers were happy. Many said it was like the good old days,” said Laura May, after May’s Antique Market had run its course. “The higher end rdf_Descriptions made it off the field, and were happy.” And, of course, one of the happiest outcomes of Brimfield is that, while its fields are now empty, they will again blossom with enterprise and opportunity come this year’s summer series of markets July 8-13.
For information, www.brimfield.com.
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