‘A glorified rummage sale’

Published 5:55 am Monday, June 7, 2010

On the surface a flea market looks like one thing — a vast and overly ambitious rummage sale.

Walk among the people and talk to the venders and you’ll find something different and maybe a deal while your at it. But don’t throw away the rummage sale mentality either.

“It’s a glorified rummage sale,” said Al Smith, CO-organizer of the this past weekend’s Three River Days Antiques and Flea Market held at the Mower County Fairgrounds.

“You can find things from eight cents to $800 and everything in between,” he said.

Tables filled the Plaeger Building, three more buildings and even more spilled onto the grounds around Plaeger. This year’s tally of venders jumped from 30 to nearly 60 and the market even added a tractor pull on Sunday.

Tables were packed with cameras, pop bottles, old records, clothes, knickknacks and everything in between. It’s pretty easy to see why some see the flea market as a repository for memories.

“It’s a time to reminisce,” Smith said. “Looking at things and saying, ‘I remember playing with that as a kid.’”

The true magic of a flea market though is the mystery. Located on any given table can be just another rusty implement of some-sort or a true treasure, though even a true treasure is somewhat in the eye of the beholder.

Jim Baumgartner, who owns the antique store Pieces of Time in Brownsdale, was a vender at Three River Days and can speak to the variety.

Baumgartner buys whole estates and then turns around and sells the items he finds.

“It’s got such a variable to it,” he said of the flea market. “It’s got garage sale items, collectibles — what people are looking for.”

Diane Bruen and her daughter Jackie were walking through the market Saturday. Jackie had in her arms a watering can for plants and a board game, the can of which fit into what Diane was looking for.

“I look for antiques,” Diane said. “There’s a lot more variety here. The prices are reasonable.”

Getting back Smith and he’s seen trying to figure out what exactly a cast-iron object is with customer Barb Selmecki before showing her some jewelry.

Smith doesn’t hold any illusions to the flea market. Aside from the good deals, memory items, and the smattering of new products people are selling other items as junk.

“They want to get rid of unwanted items,” he said.

However, there’s more treasure hunting than getting rid of junk and that’s a pretty common sentiment. Smith himself had on sale a pair of jeans with Coca-Cola printed all over it. Smith didn’t know what they were for and so called the company itself who requested pictures of it.

Turned out, it was a mystery to them as well.

“You just never know,” Smith said. “You can find a little bit of everything here.”