BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE, N.Y. – September in the Adirondacks at Blue Mountain Lake sounds like a very scenic and nice place to be. Ten years ago if that had been your destination, lodging would have been rather hard to find as most of the resorts would have closed down and cabin owners would have drained the pipes for the coming cold. Just a decade ago the Adirondack Museum and Oliver and Gannon Associates changed all that when they teamed up to produce an antiques show and, as they say, the rest is history.
Blue Mountain Lake in mid-September is now a very busy place, and it gets busier as the years go by. Resorts are booked a year in advance, restaurants are serving to a full house, cars line the roadways, and the interest in rustic and Adirondack material is at its peak. And while the show is in full swing on the hill out of town, the area around Potter’s Cabins and Restaurant has a show of its own going. Dealers and pickers rent spaces along the main route and rdf_Descriptions ranging from skinning knives and large moose heads, to rustic furniture and contemporary birch bark lampshades, are offered from tables, blankets on the ground and the backs of pick-up trucks.
“We have a tailgate show going on down there except it has no management, everyone is on his own and has to find someone to rent space along the road from,” Michael Gannon said. Each year this tailgate gets larger as the antiques show is filled to capacity and just about every dealer in the show signs up for the following year. Cancellations are rare, according to Michael.
Jerry Oliver said, “One time we asked the Adirondack Museum to present an exhibition at one of the antiques shows we were running. They agreed, but asked for a favor in return.” Bingo, the Adirondack Museum Antiques Show was born and its growth has been steady.
This show is staged totally outside under tents and just about every spot on the museum grounds is covered with interesting things to buy. Management provides one large tent that holds 30 dealers and a number of smaller tents, while some of the exhibitors provide their own tenting.
The tented areas are surrounded by all manner of boats and this is certainly the place to be if you are in the market for a canoe. Six or eight were placed outside the large space occupied by Magoun Bros. of South Paris, Maine, and John Magoun noted, “If we sell all of them, we still have several more in the truck.”
The dealers move onto the museum grounds on Thursday and are ready when a preview opens the next day at 2 pm. This preview, generally attended by about 250 people, runs for four hours and is a good selling period for most of the exhibitors. Jeffery Cherry of Pine Plains, N.Y., said, “Selling was OK for me at the preview, it was quite positive and we saw many of our regular customers.”
One buyer from Dallas moved quickly onto the field and in rapid order bought 50 pieces of furniture to be shipped home. Travis Wilson of Bog Creek Antiques, Ashville, N.C., had a display of about 30 foot stools in various shades of paint. A lady came in and bought them all, wanting them for a display in her kitchen, and before negotiations were over she had also purchased the rack on which the stools were shown.
“I want it to look just like that in my kitchen,” she declared.
Rob Markey of Christiby’s, Traverse City, Mich., brought a large collection of Old Hickory furniture and sold 87 of the 110 pieces on display around the museum’s fountain area. Ironically, all of the chairs and tables were sold to a person from Michigan.
Rangeley Lakes Antiques from Rangeley, Maine, came close to selling enough to fill the shipper’s truck. Items that left the booth included a desk, chairs, tables and two sets of twin beds. One of the sets of beds was painted yellow with wonderful paint decoration.
On Saturday the show opens at 9:30 am and runs until 5:30 pm. Visitors start lining up for the show early in the morning as parking is generally at a premium. There are three lots on the museum grounds, one across the street, and a couple more nearby that are serviced by small vans.
People also park along the main road, Route 28N and 30, avoiding the areas that are set-off by orange cones. In addition, two school-type buses run from the neighboring towns to bring people to and from the show.
“When the line reaches the third tier of the parking area, I know we have as many people waiting as the previous year,” Jerry Oliver said at 8:30 am on Saturday.
One hour later, as the gates to the show sung open, the line was out of sight, having turned the corner towards the third parking level at the museum. Admission to the show is $8 and includes tours of all the museum buildings.
Early life in the Adirondacks is beautifully presented at the museum through displays of modes of transportation including a railcar that brought the wealthy to their summer camps, all kinds of boats used on the many lakes in the area, clothing needed for the winters, tools used to clear the land and several other facets of life in the mountains.
Many of the rdf_Descriptions on display in the museum are similar to those offered by the exhibitors. Fishing creels hang from tent poles and ladders; canoe paddles, some beautifully carved and paint decorated, lean against pine trees or are mounted on the tent walls; glass cases contain colorful fishing lures and other bait; snow shoes of all sizes and construction rest on the ground; and Adirondack furniture invites the weary stroller to sit down and have a rest.
The list of things available would take pages, but shortened it includes minnow and sap buckets, blankets, oils and watercolors depicting fishing and hunting scenes, fishing poles, hunting clothing, miniature canoes, boat anchors, cross country skies, trade signs, camp furniture, bear traps and just about every kind of stuffed animal one would find in the surrounding mountains.
Of special interest was a collection of early photographs, 54 in total, restruck from the original of Henry M. Beach and displayed in the booth of Moose Brand Antiques. Adirondack scenes and lifestyles included many of the famous clubs, from panoramic negatives, such as The Lake Placid Club on Mirror Lake and the Adirondack League Club on Little Moose Lake.
Jeff R. Bridgeman American Antiques from York County, Penn., showed his collection of early American flags and was right in step with the spirit of the time.
“I really love my advertising plaster sculpture,” Christine Wright of Stonington, Conn., said, referring to a 36-inch-long canoe with Indian in the stern, a piece that was sculpted by R. Farrington Elwell for Samoset Chocolates. She indicated if a buyer did not come along for this work of art, she would continue to enjoy it on her own mantel.
Male Antique Décor of Roxbury, Conn., created lots of interest in a trade sign in the form of a Colt pistol, carved and painted wood, and a Black Forest dog cane stand, 4 feet tall and dating from the Nineteenth Century.
With the number of rdf_Descriptions offered at this show, it would appear set-up would take a long time and pack out turn into an endless chore. Such was not the case.
“We had the dealers in with plenty of time to be ready for the Friday preview, and we had them all packed and off the grounds within five hours of closing,” Jerry Oliver said. The porter system at the show runs very well and is staffed by members of the senior class at Indian Lake Central School.
“The superintendent gives the class Friday off and the kids work at the show on that day and on Saturday. We underwrite the program and with tips, the class earns enough money to fund a senior trip,” Jerry said.
It is probably safe to say that just about everyone at the show had an interest in what was being offered for sale. This is, of course, understandable, but does not necessarily have to be the case.
Everyone can drink in the spectacular views of the Adirondacks, from the tall mountains to the rippleless lakes that seem to crop up at each turn in the road. The architecture and the contents of the museum make it a highlight of any trip, and the hospitality at the lodges makes you want to come back.
As for the show, it is fun, interesting, a learning experience for many and a great spot to spend a day. It is one of a kind, and understandably people keep coming back for more.