Published: March 4, 2003
Americana in the Heart of the US:
By Tom O’Hara
NASHVILLE, TENN. – Heart Week in Nashville is the unofficial convention, twice each year, February and October, for dealers of Americana. The name comes from the premier show of the week, Libby and Richard Kramer’s “Heart of County Antique Show and Sale” at the Opryland USA Hotel.
Americana may not be the same in Vermont as it is in South Carolina or Ohio or Texas. In Nashville, “Heart Week” is synonymous with Americana and it now means three great antiques shows offering early American furniture, crafts and tools, textiles and folk art from throughout the United States and covering nearly 400 years.
The location gives the Midwest and even the West an opportunity to travel a reasonable distance to see what might otherwise only be available at Americana and antiques weeks in New York and New Hampshire.
The week began with the Tailgate Antiques Show at Fiddlers Inn opening for early buyers Wednesday, February 12 at 8 am; regular admission is at noon and closing at 5 pm on Saturday.
Owned and managed by the Jenkins family, it is set in an older motel where all the rooms open to outside walkways or on the ground floor to the parking lot. Each dealer’s exhibit space rental is for a guest room and a parking space. In most cases, the dealers move the motel room furniture, leaning the beds against the walls to allow the largest possible area for their booth. The outside space is also used for exhibiting their wares, some simply by filling the space, others by creating open-air room settings.
Music Valley Antiques Market and Heart of County are the two other shows filling the week but “Fiddlers,” as it is known, is the most fun. Its approximately 180 dealers are there to sell, which they do, and visit and simply hang out with other friends. The buyers include collectors with resale registrations, tax certificates which qualify them as dealers, and many of them have shops, do shows or are in group shops. Others are decorators and there are even buyers for large retail stores and chains. Most of all they are all aficionados of early American history and its ornamentations.
They come to compare, buy and simply enjoy the time and experience, and Fiddlers is a great place to buy. Prices are not cheap but affordable and the access is easy.
Who set up there? Here are some examples.
Ken Ware and Kathy Hanlon, Boyleston, Mass., have been doing the show for years. Ken loads a large van and trailer with big pieces of furniture in such quantity he can have two complete settings, one in the room and another on the parking lot space.
Former Bostonian now from North Carolina, Ruth Nutty carries a vast collection of silhouettes and samplers for her room. The outside space is for some early painted and country furniture.
John and Veronica Malchione, Kennett Square, Penn., have the room filled with fishing tackle and other sports gear.
Darwin Bearley has a collection of early Twentieth Century art and folk art that he brings from his native Ohio.
De Wilhelm is from Michigan but her booth looks like Pennsylvania or New England, always some outstanding pieces of early New England furniture and charming painted accessories.
Vye’s Antiques, Mt Morris, Ill., is mostly early small objects, especially things to be used in the kitchen or on the dining table. Another Illinoisan, Robert Anderson, brought early American furniture and glass as well as early English, European and Chinese porcelain dishes.
Ridgefield, Conn. dealer Corinne Burke set her room so that the windows could be changed daily. The first day it was all early textiles, hanging as if on washday.
Laurel McKinney filled her room with early textiles including bed linen, table linen and bed covers.
Ellen Katona and Bob Lutz brought a selection of country furniture from their New Jersey home.
Dennis and Ann Berard from Fitzwilliam, N.H., have been making a living selling antiques all of his adult life. They now specialize in early English porcelain, prior to 1840, selling out of the largest guest room at Fiddlers.
Michael Higgins makes his home in Brussels where he collects dishes especially the Chinese Rose Medallion.
Old Good Things from lower Manhattan was there selling architectural pieces and accessories, while Magoun Brothers brought canoes and moose heads from Maine.
Even the show managers, Steve and Barbara Jenkins, get into the selling. They brought some painted furniture and accessories and an enormous collection of pre-1940 American flags and bunting to sell.
This year’s show was the best Fiddlers ever in terms of dealers and guests. Sold out since November, the visitors came in record numbers Wednesday and Thursday. All day rain Friday dampened the activity but Saturday was scattered showers and so the visitors skipped between the rain finding and making great deals.
The Tailgate at Fiddlers returns in the fall, Wednesday, October 22 through Saturday, October 25. Visitors fill the national chain hotels on Music Valley Way or stay at Opryland U.S.A.; be sure to ask for the “Heart” specials. Dealers can inquire to the Jenkins at 317-598-0012. Try to get there, Heart Week is great fun.
Heart of Country week in Nashville began about 20 years ago and grew so quickly it spawned more shows. Music Valley Antiques Market is one of the satellite shows but it has grown to be very important in its own right.
It began with Ann Jennings in the early 1980s at the hotel across the street from Opryland USA — then called the Ramada — who, after a few years, retired. The Jenkins, producers of the Tailgate Antiques Show at Fiddlers Inn, and the Kramers, producers of Heart of Country Antiques Show, formed a partnership, received their own agreement from the Ramada and continued the show, known as the Ramada Antiques Show at Heart.
Management of the hotel changed, dropping its Ramada franchise and calling itself the Music Valley Inn, so the show name was also changed to, you guessed it, Music Valley Antiques Show.
The new management was not happy with the disruption of an antiques show in the hotel rooms, ballroom, atrium and smaller conference rooms, so it failed to renew the show’s contract a few years ago.
Steve Jenkins then rented a tent about the size of a football field and set it up in a parking lot across the street with lights and heat in it for about 140 dealers. After 21/2 years there, the (again) changed management of the hotel, now a Radisson, invited the show back. And it is bigger than ever.
Running from Thursday, February 13, through Saturday, February 15, it is the short-term exhibit hall and store for more than 130 dealers of antiques with an Americana theme. It is also the headquarters for a great deal of visiting and fellowship among the exhibiting dealers and their visitors. Across the street the Fiddlers Inn has the Tailgate antiques show, but no restaurant, so the week’s visitors meet at the restaurant and lounge in the Radisson most evenings. It really is quite a party, and there is great business, too.
Selling dealers of this show are from the East and Midwest bringing antiques with their own touch of Americana.
Jack and Gloria Evans are Leander, Tex., dealers whose antiques are generally softwood (i.e., pine) furniture and lightweight textiles and cottons.
Walton’s Antiques Mall is from Dyersburg, Tenn., practically commutable from Nashville. During “Heart” week they make their booth look like an overfilled kitchen, circa 1875. Carla and Calvin Murphy, also Tennesseans, offered a different looking kitchen but still early Nineteenth Century.
Chuck and Phyllis Suhr, Annapolis, Md., dealers, call their business Suhrprise Antiques and offer a wide selection of early painted furniture.
There are many dealers from Ohio, including Claude and Sharon Baker, John Roth, Sam Feller from Uniontown who brought a dough box with work table top, and Springboro dealer Harriett Tucker, who had a wide variety of furniture in her atrium booth including a library table, circa 1840, with New York turned legs.
An old country store set in about 1940 was the theme for Texan Sandy Burnam, complete with store fixtures and cupboards of an earlier era, while Vi Hulshart had a Lincoln log-style quilt, which she brought from her Bowling Green, Ky., home.
Lois Robinson, Charlotte, N.C., had missed the show several times but returned in February. As always she and husband Robie brought great Carolina painted and refinished furniture.
George Morel and husband Buddy are from New Roads, La., near New Orleans. Her booth is always an outstanding example of Americana and Country French furniture with some Continental accessories.
Texans have a look that is different from the East but not unlike other early and Nineteenth Century furnishings. The most noticeable feature is the use of softwoods, such as pine, cedar and fir, and the free use of paint. Comfort, Tex., dealer Jim Lord’s booth was a good example of this, with bright glossy paint and strong wood grain and stain in the same setting.
Antiques and the antiques business helps to create many friendships. Florida dealer Thomas Cheap has been doing shows for some years, including Music Valley. Rose Reynolds resided at her shop in Maine and came to a show last year where they met. He has since sold his house and moved to Maine. Her shop has been known as Hearts and Roses and there were a lot of comments about possibly including Tom’s last name in the business.
Toby Chittum, Ruther Glen, Va., had a tall Shaker dining hall cupboard in her atrium space. Mike Cohen from Brooksville, Ky., had a great variety of furniture and store fixtures.
Aberdeen Company is from Ashville, N.C., but it offers both American and English furniture in a tasteful mix, while Hagadone’s Antiques, Charlottesville, Va., is all country right down to the braided rug.
In the ballroom, Sharon Pecesk had an assortment of dolls and child’s dresses decorating her booth along with other textiles.
Joan Fithian and her husband had a booth filled with small antiques, while in the next booth, son Scott filled up with furniture. They all live in the Atlanta area.
The show is managed by Kay Puchstein, whose husband sets up a booth in the atrium, and the Jenkins’ son, Jon. “In a season of unsatisfying results, Music Valley Antiques Market was strong,” Jon said. He added, “All the dealers I spoke with were very happy with the results.”
As with the other two shows in Heart week, it is a fun time. The visitors, including exhibitors, dealers, decorators and collectors, move about easily during the shows and in the evenings to mix at the various restaurants.
Fall dates are October 22-25. Call 317-598-0012 for details.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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