Monday, July 9, 2007

Flea Markets I Have Loved

I adore flea markets. I find expensive stores rather predictable and boring, but flea markets really are an adventure. You never know what you'll find, and it's great fun wandering from booth to booth, seeing all the crazy things for sale. Some flea markets specialize in old items and others sell new merchandise, nicely discounted. The vendors and artists themselves are part of the local color. I like buying things directly from them, rather than from an anonymous chain store.
I don't live near any flea markets, so when I travel, it's a treat to check them out.
When my kids were young I took them on a road trip to Chicago and read about an Indiana flea market, near an Amish town called Shipshewana. So we planned a little detour there and even made up a song about it based on it's fun-to-say name. Man, it was unbelievably huge - it was literally street after street of stalls, selling a huge range of goods in little specialty stores. The sock store, the fanny pack store, and the jelly and relish stores come back to mind. Below is a site map which gives you an idea of how expansive the place is. I gave each of my children $10 to spend and deciding how to spend it kept them busy for hours. I still remember that my son bought a Yankees baseball cap and my daughter bought two figurines from a collectibles booth, a prince and princess, of course.
Shipshewana is an encampment. Vendors come from all over the Midwest and live in their RV's for the two days a week the market is held each week during the season. Who knew?
Three or four years ago NPR aired a documentary about flea markets, including one in San Jose which looked amazing. I really didn't pay attention to where San Jose is, being an Easterner. But a year or two later we were driving from Berkeley to Carmel and there was an freeway sign announcing: San Jose! In a split second - the kind of moment that creates great respect for the cognitive powers of the brain - I ordered my husband to exit and find that flea market. Despite his thinking I was crazy, he obliged. While not as large as Shipshewana, it is a massive area, pretty much permanent. There is even a car dealer in the San Jose market. One whole aisle is devoted to fresh produce and Hispanic food specialties. Being California, the offerings were endless and wonderful. And of course my favorite skirt, the one I wear all the time and goes with most everything I own, was purchased there, for $15.99.
Let's hear your recommendations for great flea markets!


Anonymous said...

For anybody on vacation this summer that might be on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, a must-visit flea market is the Wellfleet Flea Market. On an overcast day that might not be a beach day, you could literally spend an entire day there and not feel that you saw all the exhibits. Whenever I go I always buy something and I am not a patient shopper. Also there is a drive in movie, four indoor movies, and a miniature golf course in the complex where the flea market is located. The flea market has been around for at least 40 years. Hope it's there for another 40.

Anonymous said...

The website for this flea market/movie/golf complex is the following:

Anonymous said...

We have a flea market at the Aloha Stadium. Tour buses bring visitors there by the groups. It's a great place to shop for souveniers.

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