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Brimfield Antique Market - People already lined up at the start of May's Antique Market on Thursday, May 14 at 9:00am.
People already lined up at the start of May's Antique Market on Thursday, May 14 at 9:00am.
In a town
with a population of 3,609 in the 2010 census, each year, three times a year the population swells to 30,000 collectors and enthusiasts who are attracted to over 5,000 dealers selling glassware, furniture, garden accessories, folk art, toys, dolls, tools, colonial accessories, vintage textiles, and many other items. It is true that the numbers of attendees is declining and the amount of colonial antiques is less than thirty years ago, but you can still find betty lamps, strap iron hinges, stoneware, redware, brown and painted furniture, and ships for your collection.

Brimfield Antique Market - Cars trying to dodge the enthusiastic collectors traveling from field to field.
Cars trying to dodge the enthusiastic collectors traveling from field to field.
Brimfield Antique Market - The crowds showing enthusiasm at Brimfield.
The crowds showing enthusiasm at Brimfield.
Brimfield Antique Market was started by Gordon and Madelyn Reid in 1959 and was known as the "Greatest Antique Show Under the Sun." They moved to Brimfield in 1946 where they were in the auction business selling estates in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Gordon saw the decline in the farming industry and the growth of Russell Carrell tailgate show in Salisbury, Connecticut and the Betsy Forbes' show in Higganum, Connecticut. This was the start of what we now call a flea market.

Gordon commented on the start of the first Brimfield show:

“There was no way of proving whether it would take hold or not, but we decided to have our first show in May 1960. We spent the entire fall, winter, and spring scouring dealers through personal contact, not just through ads in the paper. We drove thousands of miles; I can’t estimate the number of people we called on. We had a nice reception; most of them knew us from the auction business. Some frowned on our idea. Others wished us luck but wouldn’t join us at first. Eventually they did, once the flea market had proven itself. Now, they’re some of the best boosters. We wound up with just over seventy dealers through that personal contact. It could never have been done through advertising alone.”

Brimfield Antique Market - A prime spot to set up at Heart of the Mart Antique Show.
A prime spot to set up at Heart of the Mart Antique Show.
The numbers increased from 300 buyers in the first show to 10,000 by 1974 with 700 dealers. This was also the start of the huge growth in circulation of Early American Life which helped generate the huge interest in early Americana culture. Several of Gordon's neighbors saw the success of the flea market and decided to open their fields to the buyers and dealers. Lois Shelton opened her show in 1975 which became the Shelton Antique Show. In 1982 Pam and Don Moriarty purchased 11 acres and hosted the Heart of the Mart Antique Show which grew to 500 dealers by the next year. The show is currently held on a 17 acre field with four entrance gates.

After Gordon Reid's death in 1974, his wife and son took over the Famous Antique Show. The show was then named J&J Promotions after Gordon's two daughters, Judy Mathieu and Jill Lukesh. Over the years other promoters opened their fields for the anticipating collectors and dealers. May's Antique Market came to set up at Brimfield in 1977. The New England Motel just celebrated their 30th year after arriving in Brimfield. The show started with 120 sites which eventually expanded to 400 with three pavilions. The field is home to the largest food court in Brimfield.

Brimfield Antique Market - The opening of the New England Motel Antiques an Collectibles Show on Wednesday at 9:00am.
The opening of the New England Motel Antiques an Collectibles Show on Wednesday at 9:00am.
The shows are staggered throughout the week during the May, July, and September shows. The following shows open on Tuesday at various times - Dealer's Choice, The Meadows, Grand Trunk, Stephen's Place, Green Acres, Collins Apple Barn, Quaker Acres, Sturtevants, Midway, and Central Park. The following shows open on Wednesday at various times - Heart of the Mart, New England Motel, and Hertans. May's Antique Market opens Thursday at 9am. And the original show that started the antique craze, J & J Promotions opens on Friday along with Brimfield Acres North.

Colonial Sense attended the shows in July 2013 and May of this year. The crowds seemed heavier in the spring show. This was one of the harshest winters in Brimfield which helped boost the attendance. We didn't find many items pertaining the to colonial enthusiast at Quaker Acres North. The New England Motel Antique Show had more dealers set up for early Americana antiques. The Heart of the Mart Antique Show which opened Wednesday at 9am, had some good quality dealers like Thurston Nichols, John Sittig, the Garthoeffners, and City Mouse Country Mouse out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Brimfield Antique Market - Quality dealers City Mouse Country Mouse from Hyde Park Square in Cincinnati, Ohio with bench tables, a mammy's bench, hooked rugs, and oil paintings ready to sell at Heart of the Mart Antique Show.
Quality dealers City Mouse Country Mouse from Hyde Park Square in Cincinnati, Ohio with bench tables, a mammy's bench, hooked rugs, and oil paintings ready to sell at Heart of the Mart Antique Show.
Hertan's Antique Show opened Wednesday at noon with quality dealers like Daniel and Karen Olson from Newburgh, New York. There was a huge crowd on Thursday at the opening of May's Antique Market at 9am. Quality dealers were set up like Michael McCue of Black Angus Antiques who showed brisk opening sales. We noticed several dealers at May's Antique Market that were set up from the other fields the day before.

Many stories and friendships have formed out of attending the Brimfield shows in the earlier days. Richard Magill of New Oxford Antiques Center began his friendship by attending Brimfield with Bob Leese, the former owner of the Antiques Center. He remembers the quality and quantity of early American antiques early in the 1970's when they first attended. Rich and Bob would go down one aisle with their wonderful purchases in hand and head back to the car to fill it up. They would then go down the next aisle and do the same thing. Rich remembers purchasing his nineteenth century walnut pie safe and his decorated mammy's bench on the fields of Brimfield. By the time they were ready to leave, they had so many items in the car, they had to use the top of the roof just in order to get their antiques back to Pennsylvania.

Brimfield Antique Market - Michael McCue from Black Angus Antiques in Pennsylvania set up with stoneware, redware, butter prints, penny dolls, and other folk art items at the opening of May's Antique Market Thursday at 9:00am. Michael seemed happy with the pace of selling.
Michael McCue from Black Angus Antiques in Pennsylvania set up with stoneware, redware, butter prints, penny dolls, and other folk art items at the opening of May's Antique Market Thursday at 9:00am. Michael seemed happy with the pace of selling.
The fields fill up with dealers fast. Linda Sarubin of the Gatchellville Store set up at Heart of the Mart field for several years but was unable to get space again in the pavilion once she couldn't make one of the shows. Be sure to make reservations early.

The next shows will be July 14-19. Colonial Sense does post the shows in our Event Calendar section. Most of the fields charge a $5 at the opening of each field. If you do find that special treasure, there are porters that will help you get your purchases back to you car. Also there are shippers set up that will ship nationwide. Parking is anywhere from $5 to $10. Feel free to email your stories of Brimfield to us at Colonial Sense. We would love to hear from you.Source: Research, photos & text by Bryan Wright

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Brimfield Antique and Collectibles Show

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