BRIMFIELD, MASS. — The mother lode of all outdoor antiques shows, Brimfield Antiques Market, had a successful run of its season opener May 14–18, with good weather, strong dealer turnout and ebullient crowds of shoppers, reminiscent of earlier days.
Enthusiastic throngs of shoppers looking for that coveted antique or collectible among the acres of items displayed temporarily swelled the population of this town that three times each year becomes the site of the largest outdoor antiques show in New England, with more than 5,000 dealers from all over the United States. Each show runs the course of a week — May, July, and September — along a one-mile stretch flanked by 20 or so individual fields on both sides of Route 20.
“The weather is with us,” commented Lori Faxon, as the minutes ticked away prior to the opening of the Dealer’s Choice market on Tuesday morning, May 14. “This is the best I have seen it in a long time,” commented the promoter, adding, “All of the fields are full and there is a real excitement in the air. It is going to be a great Brimfield.”
Dealers were packed into their spaces and there was lots of activity on the field throughout the morning. The field was full front to back and the crowds began forming more than two hours prior to opening. Some in the crowd were spotted peering through sets of spy-glasses as they used every trick in the book to gain an advantage, scanning the field for treasures.
“We had to close down the main holding area,” stated promoter Tom Faxon with more than an hour to go before opening, “There are just too many people and I am afraid someone is going to get hurt.” With the fenced-in staging area closed, the line began forming along Route 20, reminiscent of the old days in Brimfield when the swollen crowds of shoppers closed down the highway. The line, most often four to five people wide, extended for almost a quarter mile down the road, prompting the Faxons to open the market a few minutes early. Almost ten minutes after the gates had opened, the line of shoppers was still thick and funneling onto the field.
Buying was brisk with shoppers darting to and fro, eager to do some serious buying. A set of Mission oak chairs went quickly, as did an early and unusual motorcycle by an unknown maker. Shoppers were seen hauling midcentury items off the field, Asian material and even an occasional piece of brown furniture.
Brimfield Acres North
As shopping wound down across the street at Dealer’s Choice, buyers began filtering across the street to start forming a line at Brimfield Acres North. Once again, near-record-sized crowds were on hand and lines extended almost out of sight in both directions down Route 20. With multiple entrances, shoppers flooded onto the field in a much quicker fashion and they were greeted by the largest number of dealers on the field that have been seen in many years. There was not a single vending space to be had, with displays packed right to the far back side of the field.
Longtime exhibitors and prime Americana dealers such as Joe and Sue Hart and Dennis Raleigh lined the entryway to this market. Gene Pratt occupied the first spot of the row and displayed a wonderful early redware jar with unusual bands of slip wavy lines, burl scoops and ladles and some interesting cast iron. Sales around the field were good, with country seeming to dominate the list. Jewelry was also popular with buyers stacked three and four deep across the tables at many stands.
New England Motel
The hordes of shoppers woke up in the wee hours, refreshed and raring to go for another day of antiquing. New England Motel set the tone early on, opening at 6 am and debuting to strong crowds that surged each of the two other fields opening that day, making many antiques dealers happy. Also thrilled was Marie Doldoorian, owner of New England Motel, who said afterward that the show was “fabulous, awesome and wonderful. Most everyone had a great show, some had the best show ever…I think everyone who came onto the field left with something.”
Sold tags quickly appeared here in the shared booth of Gillian Bryce Fine Art, Atlanta, Ga., and Stephan Scofield, which offered a nice mix of paintings, design elements and furniture with a modern flair.
Set up at Heart-O-The Mart, Long Island dealer Jeff’s Antiques was one of many who was pleased. “The crowds were fantastic; for me the show was okay, but a lot of the dealers did extremely well, which is great for our business!,” Jeff said. Standouts in his booth included a dog sculpture, circa 1960s, that came out of New Hampshire and a circa 1950s model boat of the USS George Bibb (which was active 1940–85), measuring 110 inches long.
Having a banner show at Hertan’s was dealer Stephan Boyer, Finish Line Collectibles, Campbelltown, Penn., who specializes in advertising figural trade signs and had a nice selection on offer here, as well as unusual items such as brightly colored steps used in the circus for elephants, and one of artist Rufus Porter’s personal stencil boxes that was painted on top with a landscape scene by the painter.
Summing up his week, he said, “Very good, one of the better Brimfields in several years. Bought some great items and sold some great items and that is what you want to do at Brimfield.”
Bob and Kay Viola, Primarily Primitives, New Hope, Penn., had a decent show at Hertan’s, noting they had several serious collectors in their booth and did okay with sales. For Americana collectors, the booth was a candy shop, offering a great dry sink, wooden and burl bowls, two wooden wheels, baskets, and signs for a post office and a watch/clock/jewelry repairer.
Brimfielders who braved the week’s earlier chill — both dealers and shoppers — were rewarded with even more perfect weather on Thursday with temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sunshine for May’s 9 am opening. “We’re overbooked — is that a word?” quipped Martha May as a huge crowd pressed against the gate and last-minute dealers vied for space on the far end of the field. And at 9 am sharp, merchandise was hastily retrieved from vans, trucks and car trunks and set onto tables, racks, wire frame walls and even car hoods as eager shoppers sprinted to find their favorite dealer.
“How would you describe Brimfield to someone who has never been here?” one young man was overheard asking a female companion as they walked quickly through the warren of displays of some 600 or so collections. Indeed, the vicarious tour through centuries and over continents’ worth of material culture can be dizzying if not focused, but many experienced shoppers here know where to find their heart’s desire, whether it is a pastoral scene in oil on canvas at the impromptu fine art gallery set up by Bob Korhn of Abbeville, S.C., at the entrance to the field or a crusty-looking-though-vintage-gem of a 1920s Gibson archtop guitar with its former owner’s song list, now faded and barely legible, still masking-taped to its side, which could be found on the far end of the field at Huck’s Antiques, Amherst, Mass.
“The Sisters” reported new record crowds. J&J opened at the refreshing, comfortable hour Friday at 8 am with many hundreds of shoppers waiting at the three entrances. May’s parking lot next door had at least 400 waiting in line at 7:40, with more at the front and back gates as well.
Shopping that morning was described by Mike Rouillard, who said, “We did very well. The buyers did get some of our furniture, we sold a couple cupboards, but really what we sold was across the board — redware, lots of that: smalls and early lighting — and we had a very good show.”
His comments were echoed by many of the exhibiting dealers, who said furniture sales were fair, but the buyers were there to add to their collections of little things. The Kuraus of Lampeter, Penn., were selling their dishes. Jan Lepore, Warwick, Mass., sold from an assortment of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century household accessories, early advertising, including boxes with advertising decals and paint. Ed Wilson, Mansfield, Penn., sold some furniture and a set of early Hitchcock chairs.
Too busy selling to talk for the first hour, Matt Kane, Marshfield, Mass., offered mostly small New England household antiques. Sales included Staffordshire figurines, small pantry boxes, and early lighting. He was also offering some mercury glass, wood carvings and silver.
Judy Reid Mathieu and Jill Reid Lukash, “the Sisters” to many of Brimfield’s faithful shoppers, said they were thrilled with the Friday crowds. Judy said this was the biggest show for them in several years on both counts.
The next Brimfield dates are July 9–13 and September 3–7. For additional information, www.brimfield.com, www.brimfieldexchange.com, www.brimfieldfleamarkets.com or call the local Chamber of Commerce at 413-283-2418.