In the summer of 1959, auction owner Gordon Reid invited 67 antique vendors to set up on his property in Brimfield, MA, and sell, buy and trade their wares from blankets on the ground or the trunks of their cars. Inspired by the flea markets in Paris, Reid organized and presided over what he called Gordon Reid’s Famous Flea Market.
Now 50 years later, whether you call it the Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show, The Brimfield Flea Market, or simply “The Show”, Reid’s idea has blossomed into an enormous, tri-annual destination fair. Today, the market is run by a 4th generation of Reids, and is considered to be the largest of its kind in the entire country, drawing thousands of visitors from every corner of the globe.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Made up of 23 separate fields, the show spans 100 acres along a mile stretch of Rt. 20. The original 67 vendors have been multiplied by close to 1,000, and include dealers from as nearby as Springfield and as far as Berlin.
The show operates three separate weeks out of the year, and attracts nearly 130,000 happy wanderers annually. The truly vast array of visitors includes those looking to decorate their private homes, restock their own stores, or simply enjoy the fresh air and the bustling energy. Many arrive at the break of dawn, waiting for the gates to open, and hundreds come armed with bags and shopping carts at the ready for any bounty they may encounter. And it’s for good reason that so many show up with a personal shopping system. With over 100,000 booths and tents, you can find anything from handmade furniture to Depression era baby buggies to Italian porcelain dolls to that missing sprocket for your 80 year-old Schwinn.
As colossal as the market might be in size, patronage and inventory, one never feels pressured or pushed along. The vibe is definitely friendly, and nearly every vendor is quick to engage in amiable conversation about the items they’re selling, history in general, or rumors of a recent raincloud sighting.
Although the first week of the Brimfield show is now behind us, two of the three are still to come, in mid-July and then in early September. Hard-core dealers often hit the market every day, from open to close, but for the casual buyer, it’s a great way to spend a lazy Saturday or Sunday. Centrally located for North Easterners, Brimfield is about a three hour drive from New York, and a one and a half hour drive from Hartford or Boston. The most common take-away comment has been that the items are fascinating and the people are friendly, while the most common advice is to come prepared. If you are planning on joining the fun this summer, definitely check the weather before hand, and dress accordingly. Also, treasured finds can come and go quickly if you hesitate, so be sure to have plenty of cash on hand as well as a method to haul your plunder. And lastly, prepare to have fun, which includes brushing up on your bargaining skills, as most all of the vendors enjoy a good haggle.
For more details on dates, times, directions, and any other FAQ, visit the show’s website at www.brimfieldshow.com, and be sure to let us know what awesome pieces you come home with.