Published: September 27, 2011
Veteran dealers and shoppers alike are generally unfazed by bad weather at the Brimfield Antiques Market. After all, it is an outdoor show, conducted rain or shine, and by virtue of its schedule of three such events a year †May, July and September †attendees are sure to experience anything from spitting snow to dog-weary heat and remnants of late summer hurricanes and tropical storms. Yes, any of those weather extremes can be miserable, but the lure of finding one’s heart’s desire always trumps the love of creature comfort and propels many into the still-dark fields lining both sides of Route 20 at first light. Still, this season’s closing week at Brimfield, September 6‱0, was one of the wettest, most miserable in recent memory, with rain so persistent that one of the fields failed to open as scheduled on Thursday (See related story in this review). The fields were truly brimming.
Things got off to a wet start when the week opened on September 6. A harbinger that it was about to get a whole lot worse could well have been the oak-rimmed bathtub jutting out from the booth of John Valentino from Jackson, N.J., at Quaker Acres. From the 1800s and found by the dealer in Ohio, the Kentucky zinc bathtub could have made a nice lifeboat later in the week.
Inside the Vermont Tent at Green Acres, Greg Hamilton of Stone Block Antiques, Vergennes, Vt., was conducting commerce even as a growing puddle formed around his glass display case, forcing him to remove its door in order to get at a Gorham bear that his customer was interested in examining.
This was at 6:30 am, and already his neighbor in the tent, Michael Seward of Michael & Lucinda Seward, Pittsford, Vt., had sold a number of items, including a Queen Anne table, a couple of Indian baskets and a delft charger. Seward said he is always “gone” by 1:30 pm on opening day, presumably off to another field.
Another Vermont Tent denizen, although from Pike, N.H., auctioneer Josh Steenburgh, who had an attractive painted country display on the “dry” side of the tent, said he was also having a great morning since 5 am, having sold a camp table, three signs, a game wheel and a Danish Modern desk.
The rain, which had come down in earnest just before daybreak, eased a bit for the early Tuesday action at the so-called free fields, including Central Park, Faxon’s Midway and The Meadows. It was still soggy, however, as dealers finished setting up and preparing for the crowds that would enter later in the day at Dealer’s Choice and Brimfield Acres North.
Unlike this past spring’s show when Tom Faxon and his wife, Lori, who have operated the Dealer’s Choice field since 1991, had to swing the gates open ten minutes early to accommodate a huge crowd of shoppers that was blocking Route 20, the opening was less frenzied and both the numbers of shoppers and dealers on the fields seemed fewer.
Highlights on this field ranged from a bright yellow Gertie the Goose circa 1900s riding toy by Train-Rite, Maple Plain, Minn., that did not stay long at New Hampshire dealer Sandy Jacobs Antiques to a New York jazz school painting from the 1930s‱940s, 6 by 4 feet, on view under the pavilion at the far end of the field and brought to the show by From Here to Antiquity, Cheshire, Conn., to a fetching pair of early ovoid jugs †a 4-gallon L. Norton & Son and 2-gallon Norton & Fenton †featuring umber decoration at Joe Martin, Brownington, Vt.
By the time crowds shifted over to Brimfield Acres North across Route 20 at 1 pm, there was enough of a pause in the day’s drizzle to doff ponchos and umbrellas, although Wellingtons still came in handy. There were some empty spots at the far end of the field, but faithful dealers who did not give up their favorite spots included the McElwains †Diane and Doug †from Goldsboro, N.C., under one of the field’s covered pavilions with their collection of antique sports equipment and memorabilia, the Ferrisses and the Sherwoods of Antiques at 30B, Cambridge, N.Y., who were set up on different spaces on the field, but both brimming with vintage signs and painted furniture, and Mario Pollo of Bearsville, N.Y., with a great running horse weathervane.
A common refrain heard across the fields Wednesday was that the rain kept all but serious buyers home and dealers seemed to be selling well to the buyers mucking through the puddles. By midday, many red tags were seen in booths and a few booths seemed nearly sold out.
Within two hours of its early morning opening, Peggy Maraschiello of River Wind Antiques, Deep River, Conn., was pleased to report good sales of silver, cinnabar and ivory. Several fine pieces of shagreen also were off to new homes, while her tent neighbor, Chris Saari, Worcester, Mass., who is known for midcentury furniture offerings, was having a banner morning. A Herman Miller for Eames chair was a standout sale.
A 1925 US Geological survey of Martha’s Vineyard and an 1844 map of the Republic of Texas by Sidney Morse and Samuel Breese were highlights at Heritage Antique Maps, Rome, Ga. The Morse/Breese map was published in the North American Atlas , said to be the first atlas that used the cerographic printing process, ushering in a new era in American cartography. Dealer William Cawood said his sales were off, but quality maps of islands like Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Long Island sold well.
Lone Ranger Antiques, Hollywood, Fla., had a huge booth at New England Motel that was filled with examples of Swedish country for which dealer Jeffrey Turney is well known. For this show, he also showed a collection of vintage trunks that seemed equally at home. To fight off the morning chill, Turney wrapped himself up into a large pile of woven and rag rugs that were in the center of his booth. Once customers started pulling out rugs from around and under him to inspect, he happily stood up and the pile began to grow smaller as rugs were sold and packed up.
Pensacola, Fla.-based Pandora de Balthazar, a dealer in European luxury bedding, has an extensive collection of antique textiles from around the world, including draperies, bedding, window treatments, samplers, bolts of antique linens, tapestries and more. At the show, the dealer erected a massive tent, complete with side walls that had windows, as well as two grand entrances with double doors, making visitors feel they were walking into a real brick-and-mortar store instead of a tent.
At Heart-O-The-Mart, Malchione Sporting Antiques, Kennett Square, Penn., featured a choice grouping of decoys, fishing creels and more. Several examples of Native American items included a pair of Iroquois child’s moccasins, mid-Nineteenth Century; a late Nineteenth Century Iroquois beaded bag made for the tourist trade and a Maine pack basket, circa 1920s‱930s in wonderful condition.
The aisles at Heart-O-The-Mart were noticeably sparsely populated with dealers, compared to the usual, but most dealers were not complaining and actually seemed to be thriving with less competition. If dealers were selling well at the Motel, they were even more so here.
Ipso Facto, Three Oaks, Mich., had sales all over the map, from furniture to art, while Greg Mountcastle, Atlanta, Ga., had so many red tags in his booth an hour after opening, one wondered how he would enjoy driving an empty truck back home. His main audience are buyers who look to antiques for the design aesthetic. “For me, it’s all about the design,” he said.
After a rainy morning that cleared to just cloudy skies, mist gave way to a steady rain right as Hertan’s opened at noon. The rain, as well as the wide puddles in the aisles, did not faze stalwart buyers, who merely threw their ponchos or jackets back on and went on shopping.
Merchandise here was diverse, ranging from a collection of wood vacation signs that were the tip of the iceberg for Bob Dodelin, Mount Laurel, N.J., who was overheard telling a buyer he had many more listed on his website, to early baskets, wooden bowls and primitives at Michael Sylvia, Rochester, N.Y.
All in all, the adage “something for everyone” seemed especially true.
Despite the week’s worth of rains and flooding in lower fields, J&J Promotions was operating on its usual schedule, with the dealers moving into their spaces Thursday evening and opening to the public Friday morning at 8 am. There were nearly 1,000 shoppers waiting for the three gates to open that bright, sunny morning.
Judy Mathieu of J&J Promotions said their field was in great shape, not affected by the rain, so dealer spaces were dry, and shoppers were having a great time shopping. Dealers were also enjoying an influx of more shoppers than usual.
Barbara Milano, Albany, N.Y., was enjoying business as usual here with great crowds and good selling early on a clear dry morning, while the Webster-Greene brothers, Paul and Denis from Methuen, Mass., were offering an early Rhode Island tall chest.
Art pottery from at least four different potteries was offered by Basking Ridge, N.J., dealer David Vargas, including specimens from Galle, Owens, Merrimac and Fulper.
Ann Marsh, Danbury, Conn., was selling galvanized tin objects. Her market for goods is people who use the pieces for planters and also some suburbanites who are keeping chickens at their city and suburban homes.
Dennis Aspinall, East Norriton, Penn., came with a truck filled with smalls, offering decoys from well-known carvers, English brass candlesticks, lighting and a large assortment of quilts and coverlets.
Wayside Antiques, West Boylston, Mass., is an open shop and its principals David and Susan Genereux do but a few shows. Their specialty is Victorian- and Edwardian-era furniture.
J&T Antiques, Berlin, Conn., offered early furniture and other household tools and accessories. A part of their collection was an assortment of wooden bowls and trenchers, most in early paint.
William R. & Teresa F. Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., did well for the weekend at J&J. According to Bill, “We really lucked out with the weather as Friday it got clear and dry. Our sales were good across the board, selling Currier & Ives prints, Export and more Anglo American ceramics.”
Quiet Corner Antiques, Sterling, Conn., had several pieces of very early painted furniture. The cobbler’s bench was in its original blue milk paint, with three dovetailed drawers. An early school bench in its original paint was filled with pantry boxes and firkins, also in paint. A big corner piece was a dry sink in blue milk paint.
May’s Antiques Market
May’s had to forgo its traditional Thursday opening, due to flooding, to open at 9 am Friday, an hour after J&J’s opening. The field opened with “about half our normal number of dealers, grouped only in the dry areas of their field,” according to Martha May. While it is the usual for May’s to charge opening day admission, customers instead got in for free. Several dealers praised this move as encouraging more shoppers to attend.
Near the opening gate, Bob Korhn of Images of the Past, Abbeville, S.C., was selling fine art quickly from his tent. A couple of his regular customers were there Friday and bought.
The Nagys of Chelsea Hill Antiques, Hampton, Conn., were set up just across the driveway from Korhn; they reported their results were lower than a normal September Brimfield. Dorine Nagy said, “We sold a few pieces of furniture, but sales were not what we usually expect for the September show.”
Karen Alexander Antiques, Somers, Conn., with its proprietor, Sandy Doig, was in its usual space here that, for the day, became waterfront property. Sandy collects fine early furniture for the various shows he does in New England.
Kent Sinkiewitz and Karen Gale were offering fine china, Chinese Export and English crockery. They also had a collection of tole trays in excellent paint decoration. As morning shoppers found them, they were busy selling from their collection of English ceramics as well.
Art Bennett, Waitsfield, Vt., offered an early grain painted document box. He also had a unique cast iron fireback with the relief impression of a locomotive, mid-Nineteenth Century. Also from Waitsfield, Malcolm Reiss was offering a collection of fireplace tools and equipment.
Auctioneer and antiques dealer Dave Straight came from nearby Sturbridge, Mass., and said his sales were “not bad, considering the circumstances. We sold some furniture and smalls, enough to not complain. I felt that May’s not charging for the Friday admission helped bring in customers.”
Rene and Terry Cormier, Belchertown, Mass. brought some of their favorite pieces to May’s, including a pig pull toy, which had just enough wear to prove its age. Several other pieces offered included an unusual item, possibly the top to a Palladian window, and an early sea chest.
Next year’s Brimfield dates will be May 8‱3, July 10‱5 and September 4‹.
Heavy Rains Flood Fields, Delay Show Opening
If there is anything antiques dealers and show promoters know, it is how to go with the flow. In the predawn hours Thursday, September 8, torrential rains fell here. After an already soggy week, many dealers who were camping on the show fields woke to find themselves standing in ankle-deep water, or deeper, in the super-saturated fields.
Reports of from three to as much as six inches of rainfall by local radio stations were seemingly confirmed at the first light that morning when the three brooks crossing Brimfield’s main road, Palmer Road (Route 20), had nearly become whitewater rivers, overflowing their banks into parking lots, show fields and tented exhibit areas.
Fields were not drivable that morning, as the first few dealers arriving at May’s Antique Market to move in for that day’s field opening soon found themselves mired in deep mud. One minivan loaded with antiques sunk down to its floorboards. After a handful of vehicles drove into the deep mud, Martha May shut down her family’s showplace for the first time in the more than 30 years that the family has hosted antiques markets.
Updated messages recorded on May’s show office phone and plain word-of-mouth soon got the news out to dealers and shoppers alike that May’s opening was postponed. Later that morning, Martha announced May’s would open Friday at 9 am in the dry areas for all the dealers who were still there or would like to return.
With the rest of Thursday suddenly free, a great many people felt like kids with a snow day and wondered what to do with it. Many people wandered from field to field, looking at the many new lakes and ponds and engaged in a good deal of bargain hunting at fields that usually were not that busy on Thursdays. Hertan’s was muddy but passable, and dealers there were reporting good sales. New England Motel had erected boardwalks, or perhaps they were more like gang planks, connecting tented exhibits, and willing shoppers scooped up the great deals. Later in the weekend, the fields seemed busy also for the dealers who stayed in place.
Brimfield has been happening three times each year for more than 50 years now and it continues in spite of hurricanes, tornadoes, heat and cold. There have even been snowstorms in the May edition of the shows and customers still arrive ready to find their treasures.
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