BETHLEHEM, CONN. — “I had the idea for this kind of a show quite some time ago, talked it over with a few show managers, but stirred no interest, so decided to go it alone with the help of fellow antiques dealer Tom Seaver,” Fritz Rohn said on September 25, the day after Dealer’s Fair made its debut at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds. “As it turned out, it was like throwing a big party,” Fritz added. And what a party it was.
Tom, who is half of the Dublin, N.H., antiques shop of Seaver and McLellan, and Fritz, half of Jennings & Rohn, Woodbury, Conn., had just over two months to launch Dealer’s Fair once a venue was in place.
“I have always liked the Bethlehem Fairgrounds, the place is just right for both indoor and outdoor showing, and the people there are great to work with,” Fritz said. They had use of two long buildings, with the potential of more indoor space in the future, and endless room outside. With a perfect day, outdoors started out a bit chilly in the early morning with the temperature in the high 30s, and the sun provided ample light inside, shining through the skylights in the buildings.
“Our exhibitors came as a result of advertising, we solicited dealers at Brimfield, and word of mouth brought some to us,” Fritz noted, with a total of 87 showing. Of that number, 37 were inside and 50 outside. There is a waiting list of those wanting to be inside and more will move in as space becomes available.
Dealers started arriving at the fairgrounds before dawn, “so we knew our plans of getting them onto the field had to change,” Fritz said. Instead of the announced hour of 7 am, “we let them in at 6 am and it worked out fine,” he added. The show then opened to the public at 9 am, closing for the day at 1 pm. “At 1:30 pm there was a lady still shopping as the dealers were packing, and she bought many things, so we just let her drive to the exhibition area and load up,” Tom said.
The variety of the objects that spilled out of vans, trucks and SUVs was almost beyond belief, ranging from the fine and polished to the rusted and dented. The effort made for display also varied, with tables and shelves used at some of the outside booths, and just random placing of objects at other booths. But appearance did not rank high in presentation, for this was a fun show where buyers enjoyed the hunt through material almost as much as the find.
Large pieces of furniture, such as the tall stepback cupboard offered by Bob Withington, were not plentiful, but there was a good selection of small stands and tables, and a mixture of chairs. Redware and stoneware were plentiful, Ron Chambers had a collection of pewter pieces, Bev Longacre provided the only selection of Christmas ornaments, and paintings filled the stand of From Here to Antiquity. Architectural items included a large half-round window hanging in the booth of Judith and James Milne, and R.T. Facts had an interesting pair of oval-shaped cast iron urns. A scan of the pictures is further testament to the endless parade of things offered.
“We were aiming to make this event a draw for high-end retail buyers and dealers, and that seemed to happen,” Fritz said. Seen roaming the field and buildings were a good number of well-known dealers, including Elliott Snyder, Arthur Liverant, David Schorsch, John Keith Russell and Gail Lettick, as well as former dealer/collector and now garden expert George Schoellkopf of Hollister House, Tom Noonan and several sightings of Elvis. “Since there was no admission charge, it was difficult to come up with an attendance count, but judging from the number of cars in the parking lot, we are thinking about 500 people came,” Tom said.
So in a nutshell, Dealer’s Fair got off to a great start and seems to have a shining future awaiting. Exhibiting dealers walked about saying such things as “this is great fun,” “reminds me of the old days,” “it’s like Russell Carrell all over again,” “even if you don’t sell anything, you really have not lost anything because of the low booth rent” (outside booth, $50; inside booth, $75), and one lady who said, “I got excited about this show just driving through the gates to the fairgrounds.”
Obviously, more Dealer’s Fairs are in the future. “We are working on a schedule for 2014, which we know will include a fair in Bethlehem again in September and probably in June,” Fritz said. It was also mentioned that possibly four fairs would be scheduled, and again possibly at a couple of other locations, depending on venues.
But be assured, Dealer’s Fair has just gotten its feet wet and is looking to take long strides in the future.