Published: October 23, 2007
Nestled in the small historic hamlet on the far corner of the town’s charismatic green is the Weston Playhouse, one of numerous buildings in town listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and home to the annual Weston Antiques Show. Now in its 49th year, Weston has developed a cultlike following among the throngs of people in attendance, some of whom routinely travel from as far as California.
Show manager Patti Prairie is one of the driving forces behind the popular event, the first of a series of five shows to open between October 4 and October 7, and it is, according to management, the anchor of what has come to be known as Vermont Antiques Week.
Management reported a record crowd on hand for the opening of the show on Thursday evening, boosting out last year’s record attendance. Among those at the front of the line for preview were Charles and Boo Cook, collectors from St Louis who have been attending the Weston show for the past 30 consecutive years. “We wouldn’t miss Patti’s show,” stated Charles, adding that it is an elegant event. “We just love it,” added Boo, who listed a hooked rug decorated with a St Louis theme and a tinsel painting among their numerous purchases.
`With the entire village of Weston listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the attitude in the region is somewhat different than one might expect from other towns hosting antiques shows. Community members are out in force, volunteering to work the show in any manner they can. While their civic awareness and participation are certainly welcomed and appreciated by the dealers, it is also somewhat self-serving for the volunteers, as the show is a benefit for historic preservation. The Weston show raises half of the funds needed annually to maintain the Weston Playhouse, the Farrar-Mansur Museum and the Old Mill Museum and Dam.
The crowd on preview night consists of a mainly retail crowd, although sales were reported as “strong” by many of the dealers. The crowd, heavily peppered by a large contingent of dealers, continues throughout the weekend. A huge line of enthusiastic shoppers was witnessed on Friday morning as the show prepared to open to the public. “It took 15 minutes to get everyone in line into the show when we opened the doors,” stated an elated Prairie.
Shoppers were elbow-to-elbow and sold tags began appearing right away. Charles and Barbara Adams reported “stronger than usual sales” with several pieces of blue spongeware moving right off the bat, including a rare soap dish with the hard-to-find undertray still accompanying the piece. The dealers also reported the sale of a “wonderful” advertising tin and a paint decorated shoeshine box that had the name “Jack” colorfully painted on one side and “5 Cents” on the other.
Barrett Menson also reported good sales, including a nice Hepplewhite bow front chest with vibrant veneer, several paintings and numerous country smalls. Columbia, Mo., dealer Douglas Soliday was also busy throughout the show writing sales slips for a variety of items.
“Dealers just love this show,” commented Prairie. Ester Gilbert, now run by the late Ester’s daughter, Sue Kozub, has been participating for 37 years. A nice selection of art added depth to the display, including a Lester Stevens oil of a Vermont farm, a Jane Peterson attributed oil titled “North Shore” and a reasonably priced trompe l’oeil on an old artist’s palette.
Peter Papp is another of the old-time dealers taking part in the show, with 22 years under his belt. The Oriental carpet dealer has a prime location, using the entry way into the playhouse theater. The rows of seats make for great props on which to display the carpets, and in good weather the dealer expands out of the doorway at the side of his booth, draping carpets over the stone wall that separates the playhouse from the scenic waterfall and babbling stream below.
Steve German of Mad River Antiques commented that he had a “stealth” sale on preview night. “I had a customer come back after the show had closed on Thursday evening and buy a ship in a bottle. He quickly left his card and told the dealer to have it wrapped up and that he would be back in the morning. The buyer explained to German the following morning that he has 65 examples of ships-in-a-bottle, and said “his ‘wife would kill him’ if she found out he bought another one. He plans to slip it onto a shelf with the others and hopes it will go unnoticed.”
Antique scientific instruments filled the booth of Sarasota, Fla., dealer John Forster with a grand selection of barometers displayed. One of the most interesting from the assortment was a rare “Duke of Wellington” commemorative barometer, circa 1852, that celebrated his life through symbolic carvings. Adorned with a British officer’s helmet at the top, cannons, cannonballs, the stock of a rifle and the hilt of a sword, medals and a carved bust, the fanciful piece captured the attention of several at the show. An early walnut stick barometer, circa 1710, with a carved acorn at the top and engraved scale was also attracting looks.
Show manager Patti Prairie is promising even greater things for next year to coincide with the Weston Antiques Show’s golden anniversary.
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