Once a month there is a grand gathering of goods at the Third Sunday Market, loads and loads of stuff. In the winter there is a smaller indoor market in this location, but in the warmer months the Third Sunday Market is both indoors and out. The scale of this event is huge, sellers crowd 120 acres of event center which includes two cavernous indoor spaces, permanent outdoor pavilions, temporary pavilions, and open space for an overflow of vendors with pop-up tents, trailers, tables, or just a claimed space to strew their array of goods on the ground. I have never made it all the way through, there is just way too much ground to cover and far too many goods to see. Rain or snow or shine, this place is stuffed with stuff.
Sunday was a sun day, also a wind day and a cool temperature day, but a good day for putting on some woolens and taking a drive. At the farmer’s market one of the vendors had mentioned that she would be at the Third Sunday Market the following day, fortuitous because I never manage to remember both that there is a market and that it is the third Sunday at the same time. To be honest, I had already forgotten all about it the next day when the spouse mentioned it. By the time we had breakfasted, bundled, and readied ourselves to go it was not an early start and cars were parked out in the supplemental to the supplemental parking lot when we arrived. Knowing people always come and go, we optimistically ventured into the closer parking areas and luckily found one spot hidden in the sea of cars. We hoped our luck would hold as we embarked on our treasure hunt.
We paid our $6 admission and were treated to a new temporary pavilion along the border fence. After walking past the first pavilion we rounded a corner to a view of permanent pavilions, trailers, and pop-up shelters as far as the eye can see. I tried to take a few pictures to show the size and scale but would need a camera drone to do it justice. For anyone interested in tracking their number of steps, this is the place. Hours and discoveries stretched before us.
Regional Differences: What “Mid” adds to “West”
When I lived in California I went to many flea markets, antique fairs, and antique shops and collectives but I see things at Midwest antique shows that I never saw in the West. My theory is that stuff has been lying about in family’s attics and barns longer here than there. Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say different stuff has been in the attics and barns.
Originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, California was settled in the 18th century by the Spanish. Father Junipero Serra helped establish Spanish settlements along the coast as his order built missions from San Diego to Sonoma, each approximately 30 miles, or a day’s journey, apart. Haciendas were established, which were large but sparsely populated land grants. Later Russians arrived in small numbers in the northernmost part of the state and were joined by larger groups of Americans arriving via ship and wagon trains and by Asians and Europeans arriving via sea routes; arrivals from everywhere increased dramatically after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. After briefly becoming a self-proclaimed republic in the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, Alta California was occupied by US forces during the war with Mexico and was admitted into the Union in 1850. Earlier on, American settlers began populating the Midwest in the late 1700s and Midwest states entered the Union late in the eighteenth and early in the nineteenth century.
It was not until the Transcontinental Railroad connected the continent in 1869 that the transportation of people and their stuff to the west became less long and arduous. With more modern methods of shipping, stuff arrived to California from all over the world but back in the day–before railroads, trucks, container ships, UPS, Amazon, and eBay–things came by wagon train or ship; there was not much room forfrivolities and favorites in creaking wagons scaling mountain passes or storm tossed ships rounding the Horn; only the most necessary and the most treasured items made those journeys. Meanwhile, Illinois became a state in 1818 and a lot of everyday and utilitarian stuff people had back then is the same stuff we are finding now: old crockery, cooking utensils, farm implements, quilts, battered toys, and all manner of functional things have been discovered in attics and barns. Collectables from the 1900’s and beyond are probably pretty much the same in both locations, although California has the Asian influences, the Gold Rush era, the Barbary Coast era, the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the age of tech to contribute to its sources of stuff, the earlier everyday homespun Americana is definitely easier to find in the Midwest than it is in the West.
That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Stuff Indoors and Stuff Outdoors
Each of the open-sided pavilions had two long aisles of vendors and each pavilion had outdoor vendors extending from both ends and beyond. Pathways separated impromptu shelters and booths in the open areas. There were two enclosed indoor areas, one large auxiliary building and one huge main building. We decided to do the outdoor areas first and wander the more comfortable indoor areas at the end of our visit.
In the wide open expanse of the market, the wind indiscriminately blows dust on everything. The elements, and the often helter-skelter arrangement of too many goods for too small a space, make the outdoor shopping a bit of an adventure. Dusty collectables laying in the dirt or jumbled on tables are definitely diamonds in the rough; it takes a patient eye and a little imagination to recognize treasures buried in dingy clutter. It can be a bit of a gamble, often I have had an idea of an item’s potential but will not really know what condition something is in until I have had a chance to take it home and clean it. Even if it is not in as good a condition as I had hoped, just about anything looks better in an orderly home environment than it does when left outside like detritus in the dirt. There is a risk but the payoff could be a great find for a lot less money than can be found elsewhere, often for less than in the indoor area and a lot less than in other shops and collectives.
The indoor area, particularly the huge main building, is more orderly and usually the place to find the more valuable and rare items. The indoor market runs year round and the open air market only during the warmer months; the indoor vendors may be more established in that location. Still, it is best not to assume anything and it is time well spent to look inside as well as out. Bargains are found in both locations–I have found some great things in the indoor area–but I think it is more of a challenge to be out in the cold winds and swirling dust–or in the humid heat, the pouring rain, or whatever weather is served up that Sunday–trudging up and down aisles and paths enduring nature’s whims while looking for hidden treasures.
Prepare for Stuff
There are so many different types of things, so many areas to explore, such a quantity of stuff, it is all overwhelming. I have never made it all the way through the market, and that is with doing just a quick walk through; I do not stop and pour over every table, booth, and display but pause only at the ones that catch my eye. Even with strolling at a steady pace, my senses quickly become overstimulated and my eyes become like a cartoon character’s pin-wheeled spinning orbs. After my first visit I learned to go with a mission, to search for something specific. My advice would be to have one or two items in mind–an art glass vase, a bedside table, a pastel quilt, a toy truck, a garden ornament, an Elvis painting–anything that will provide some focus for your eyes.
Sunday was an impromptu journey and I was ill prepared. Few vendors, if any, will take credit cards. Some will take checks, but cash is the currency. I had some cash in my wallet left over from the farmers’ market the day before but did not have much and did not have my checkbook. Worse, I broke my own rules and did not get something in mind until after we had passed by many displays. With nothing in mind I quickly lost my mind. It all became a blur.
Stuff You Can Find
The question should not be what stuff you will find but what you will not find. This is the perfect place to find quirky, unusual, or rare treasured items for house and garden.
There are things to be found that I did not even know to look for. When we were walking down an aisle in the auxiliary building I saw a very large covered basket. Thinking I was talking to the spouse I murmured, “Yikes, that basket looks like a coffin.” A woman walking nearby overheard and, rather than being offended by myoffhand remark not meant to be heard by others, laughed and agreed with me. Together we got closer to examine it. Sure enough, it was a wicker coffin. I replied, “Now we know you can find anything at this market.” The vendor joined us and offered a deal on the slightly used coffin. I have heard of used car salesmen, but used coffin salesmen? He had acquired it from someone who had found it in his barn. The original owner was the third generation on his land and did not know much about it other than it had been used by those who had come before him. Obviously it was not used for burials but for laying out the dearly departeds for visitations. As unique a find as it was, I could not think of a good place or purpose in my home for a lightly used wicker coffin. However it did bring one thought to life; so many of these items had their own story. Sadly, most of the stories are lost; all that remains are artifacts lost in a sea of dust covered stuff.
What can be found? There are toys.
Collections such as salt and pepper shakers, clocks, steins, and of course corn.
Knickknacks and knackknicks.
Stuff I Found
Wall-eyed as I was, I did find stuff. We walked the perimeter of the outdoor pavilions and started with the furthest one. At the end of the first aisle I saw a table full of baskets and thought of the clutter of knitting accessories that seem to gather around the chairs I sit in. My mission, from that point, was to find some container to corral the clutter. Surely I should know by now that buying an organizer will not make me organized, but this was a quest for focus not a quest for self realization. The baskets were handcrafted in the USA by Longaberger, they are viewed by some as a collectable but by me as an organizer. Most of them were less than $20 but I did not want a collectable basket so much as I wanted a clutter corral to collect my clutter; there could be other options–less collectable perhaps–but for less money. A bit further on I found another Longaberger basket and would have been happy to stop right there had it not been for the extra zero on the end of the price tag, $60 when I would have happily paid $6 or even $16.
At one of the indoor vendors, I found a little chest of drawers that had probably been a jewelry box. The bottom drawer was smaller than the the top two and I asked if the space behind the drawer was supposed to be a hiding place. We later discovered a little hole in the back of the chest and figured it must have been the place for a little music box. The woman asked her father, who looked to have been on this earth far longer than the little chest, about the empty space. He said he did not know why there was a space but offered it to me for much less than the marked price. Big enough for knitting stitch markers and darning needles but small enough for a chair side table, without a second thought I bought that little clutter corral without bothering to make a counter offer.
Thinking back on the baskets and realizing they were a good price after having seen them marked much higher elsewhere, I made the spouse hoof it back to the furthest outdoor pavilion for a second look. I found two fabric lined baskets with lids and asked how much if I bought them both. He dropped the price a bit, giving me a price for the two that he said was less than I would be likely to find elsewhere for a single one half the size of either. He was probably right, but once again I accepted the price without a counter offer.
There is much to be learned about bartering, but not from me. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I did not pay sticker price for any of it. Admittedly I have a long way to go before I have any credibility for advising about bargaining, but I have at least learned to have a comment or question for the vendor to open the door for negotiations and give them an opportunity to offer a just-for-you lower price. For some reason it is awkward for me to hold a marked item and ask, “Can you do better on this?” but not uncomfortable to ask, “How much for both of these?” or “Can you tell me a little bit about this?”
Happily my purchases cleaned up nicely, a little dusting and polishing and I am pleased with my new stuff. And in spite of my subpar bartering abilities, I think they
were good bargains. Now the hard part: to use the organizers to get organized, round up that clutter, and herd it into my little clutter corrals. Hmm, sounds like something I would do in the West, not the Midwest. Perhaps I need to find something bigger to corral my new clutter corrals, my next stuff quest for the upcoming third Sunday. Yippie yi yo kayah.
Note: Whilst I was doing all this shopping, the spouse had a look see with his video camera. He did not come home with any stuff, although he was very interested in finding the nearest restaurant for lunch after all that walking. We found one with 4 stars on Google Maps, Cousins Restaurant and Lounge. I would not recommend it. Not all Midwestern food is bad but sadly some of it is heavy with an emphasis on quantity at the expense of quality. I had a chicken soup that was so thick and gloppy it could hold my spoon upright and a salmon sandwich, listed as a salmon BLT but with no B unless it was B for burnt patty. More research is needed for restaurants in this area. Could be another reason to return for more stuff…