Imagine for just a minute…
- 6 days
- In Massachusetts
- Town’s population: 3,339
- Antique Vendors: 4,800
Doesn’t that sound like heaven?
I’m talking about Brimfield — the largest outdoor antique show in the US!
And after years of talking with vendors about the show and reading about it we finally took the plunge and decided to shop the July 2013 show.
Now if you know anything about me — I like to be prepared. So:
- Do we know how to get there? Check.
- Do we have a place to stay? Check.
- Do we have a list of items we need to purchase? Check.
- Do we have a magnifying glass, a tape measure and a black light? Check.
- Do we have tubs and wrap? Check.
- Do we have cash, checks and our tax ID number? Check.
- Do we have good walking shoes and sun screen? Check.
- Do we have a plan on how to walk and shop a 4,800 vendor show? Not a clue!
Think about it. 4,800 vendors. How do you shop a show with that many vendors? Where do you start? And how do you make decisions when just down the road there may be a better deal or a fantastic piece?
We spent a lot of time on the Internet trying to understand how the show works and trying to identify vendors that carry our specialties. Got to tell you — don’t bother. The Internet was NOT helpful. So what do you need to know before you take off for Brimfield?
SIX THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BRAVE BRIMFIELD
ONE: VENDORS COME AND GO
Prior to Brimfield all of the shows that I have attended work the same way. The vendors are expected to be open for the entire show. So you would assume that since Brimfield is a six day show that the vendors would be set up for all six days. That is NOT how it works. In reality Brimfield consists of 21 individual shows that all happen to be in the same small town during the “same” time period. Each of the 21 shows are set up in a “field”. The field owner sets the schedule for their show. Some shows last six days. Some shows last just a matter of hours. So the first thing you need to know is what are the days and hours for each field.
Fields that are six day shows will be open all of the time. So you can visit them at your leisure. The one-day shows are another story. If you want to shop these shows don’t dawdle. We found that many vendors closed up shop within 3 hours of opening!
TWO: IT’S A SHOPPING FRENZY
Are you a fan of Black Friday shopping? If so you are going to LOVE the one-day fields at Brimfield. This is how it works.
- The one-day fields are fenced.
- It costs $5 per person to get into these fields.
- You’ll need to get to the field about 20 minutes prior to the opening.
- Have exact change ready and in hand.
- If you’ve never been there before you won’t know where your kind of vendors are. You’ll have less competition if you head to the back of the field and work it from back-to-front.
- Be prepared to fight for a spot in front of a table to look at what a vendor has to offer. Other shoppers will not make space for you.
- If you are interested in something keep it in hand. If it is on a table it is fair game.
Even if you don’t enjoy the rush and craziness of Black Friday the one day shows are worth it. We found our best pieces and prices at these shows.
THREE: DON’T EXPECT WARM AND FUZZY
Transactions at Brimfield are not relationship based. The vendors that we met didn’t want to talk about the history of the piece or who made it. They prefer to deal with re-sellers versus collectors. And for them it’s a commodities exchange. So don’t expect a lot of conversation beyond best price. And remember this is the east coast. You shouldn’t expect a “Midwest Nice” experience. The vendors don’t intend to be rude — it’s simply a time issue. They want to sell as much as possible in as little time as possible.
FOUR: CASH — DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
Most vendors will take a check if you have a re-sale number. If you don’t have a tax number bring cash. To be honest we thought that was strange until we learned that the vendors did not want to file sales tax for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hmmm. Unlike Iowa and Minnesota I guess they don’t pay sales tax on any of their transactions.
FIVE: TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE
Don’t take the main road off the highway into Brimfield. You’ll triple your commute time. There are back roads that will take you directly into the center of Brimfield. Take the back roads and park in the center of town. You’ll save a few bucks by parking at either end of town — but trust me the $2.00 difference is not worth it at the end of a long antiquing day!
SIX: DON’T KILL YOURSELF
You don’t need to be there from sun up to sun down. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we shopped from 8am to 2pm. If we go again we’ll probably skip the weekend.
If we were to drive directly to Brimfield from Iowa it would take more than 21 hours to get there. So was it worth it?
Well I will admit that Michael and I had a gas. We antiqued all the way out there and back. We took the time to visit family. We shopped till we dropped. And we found some beautiful pieces — not only in Brimfield but in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana as well. Will we go again? We certainly hope so. And if you have the chance to go — send us an email. We’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Brimfield can be daunting — but the experience is definitely worth it!