Discovering Brimfield, Massachusetts
Brimfield Brimming with Activity & Antiques
By Barbara Rizza Mellin
From flea-market finds to Tiffany treasures, there’s nothing better than the extraordinary Antiques and Collectibles Market held three times a year—May, July and September— in Brimfield, Massachusetts. With hundreds of dealers lining Main Street and covering nearby fields, there’s lots of walking to do. And lots of looking, and perhaps some buying, and certainly some eating!
The first time I experienced Brimfield, I was completely overwhelmed – so many dealers and antique-lovers in one place. Since its beginning in the 1950s, Brimfield has grown to be one of the largest and best-loved antique shows in the country. The population of this picturesque New England town increases ten-fold during the
Brimfield is a little like a carnival for adults. There are fascinating sights, crowds of happy people, food venders, rows of white tents that stretch out in all directions, and a street-fair atmosphere. The pocket guides found along the route list dealers by categories, so you locate exactly what you’re looking for.
And the variety of offerings is amazing; you can find anything including the kitchen sink! Well, perhaps, a bathroom sink, from antique porcelains to hand-painted pottery ovals from Mexico. You’ll also find furniture and flatware, Coca-Cola coolers and carnival glass, beads and baskets, vintage clothes and Victorian jewelry, musical instruments and mannequin, circus posters and crystal chandeliers. Of course, part of the fun, too, is the people: watching them as they search for and collect their treasures, talking with the dealers who come from all across the country, and just being part of a common fun experience.
At O’Reilly’s shop in the Barn, you’ll find cameos that range from $30 to $1,400. In another shop, I discovered a rare Tiffany salver that was selling for $3,500. Christina, who sold me a vintage brooch for $20, claims Brimfield is her favorite show because it seems more like a vacation than really working. At the Compulsive Collector, where I bought a salt cellar for $5, the owner from Long Island agreed. She’s been coming for 28 years and finds the friendly venders, new and returning customers, and vibrant atmosphere “exciting and fun.”
When the shopping (or looking) gets to be too much, it’s time to stop for lunch or a snack. The food choices are also varied, from salads to souvlaki to sausages that smell so good cooking on the grill they’re hard to resist. If you go, make sure to stop by Dad’s Kettle Corn in the center of the market. Guy Powell, who mans the kettle, is a retired CPA, but it’s easy to see he’s there more for the pleasure than the profit. Kettle corn, explains Powell, starts out as simple popcorn sprinkled with sugar. After it has been heated to bursting in the huge, hot, copper kettle, which he stirs constantly, Powell’s grandson adds salt to give it that “sweet and salty taste.”
Following lunch and a respite, you’ll be ready to tackle the tables again. But you can’t see it all in one visit. This year’s dates are May 8-13, July 10-15, and September 4-9, 2018. For more information about the Brimfield Exchange: Antique and Collectibles Market, visit BrimfieldExchange.com.
Barbara Rizza Mellin writes frequently about art and travel for local, national and international publications and is a member of Winston Salem Writers. She is also an artist and printmaker.
All photos by Bruce Mellin.
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