Here is an article that my sister Susan and I wrote for Country Decorating Ideas. After three days of snow I started dreaming about Brimfield...read on and you'll understand why.
A Fair To Remember
BRIMFIELD, who would have thunk it?
Nine letters, arranged just so, would give antique lovers such pure pleasure, such exquisite anticipation, such excitement. If you think we’re kidding just ask any of the hundreds who flock there every year searching for the right piece of furniture, architectural element or Halloween paper mache pumpkin,( circa 1930 ),to make their lives complete.
Getting there. Here’s what happens when you take that fateful turn onto exit eight off of the Massachusetts Turnpike. You drive for what seems like an hour, (it’s probably more like 15 minutes, depending on the traffic), thru the town of Sturbridge and into Brimfield center. If it’s your first time you might want to drive down the main thoroughfare just to get a sense of the scope of this place, the sheer colossalness , if that’s a word, of the fair. Anyone who loves antiques and yard sales is going to be about as close to paradise as you can get on the planet.
Now to park. Where, how much should you pay and how will you remember where your car is are all good questions. You can park in a lot like J&J’s, which is one of the sections of the fair, (see map), where you’ll have to pay a premium but the advantage is you’re right there in the thick of things. Or you can park a little further out, (a ¼ to a ½ mile), and walk in. These lots are usually in some enterprising souls backyard. Expect to pay anywhere between $5.oo and $20.00 depending on how close you are to the fair and how large your vehicle is. As for us, remembering where we parked… we make a note in our journal.
Journal? You bet. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate but it sure comes in handy to note where you spotted that collection of sap buckets or the enameled bread box that you think you might not be able to live without but you’re just not quite sure yet. You see the fair is so big that you’ll want to get a sense of what’s out there and how things are priced, as prices vary. However, that said, if you see something and you love it, (and it seems like a good price), by all means go for it. The journal also comes in handy for a clear headed list of things you’re looking for, which you can write down beforehand. Believe us when we tell you that you will be better off if you have a sense of what you would like to find as well as recorded dimensions for larger items such as bureaus, bookcases, etc…
Pricing. Most prices are negotiable. A good rule of thumb is to offer 10 to 20% below the asking price. Be advised this may not work. If it does the dealer will most likely get a far away look in his/her eye, count silently to ten and respond “all right” or “how about” an amount in between what you have offered and what they have asked. If you have never haggled try out the following phrases in front of a mirror for a week or two, every morning, before you go to the fair; “ Can you do any better on this ? “ or “Would you take X # of $’s for this?”. Also practice your most nonchalant but friendly look. Closer to the end of the fair vendors are usually more willing to barter. Be warned, don’t offer someone $5.00 for an item priced at $100…you’re bound to make an enemy.
Necessary accessories. Here are a few things that we highly recommend you do to make your day more enjoyable.
1. Wear comfortable closed toe shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and the fairgrounds are either very dusty or very muddy.
2. Wear comfortable clothes. They are a must. Remember, you’re not making a fashion statement. Layering is a good idea too because at 9:oo am you may need a sweater but at 1:oo pm you’ll be glad your wearing your ‘life is good’ t-shirt.
3. Sunscreen is ultra important, unless you like the lobster look.
4. A backpack is a good idea for holding water, wipes, a cell phone, your journal, snacks, and a measuring tape. Keep your money in a secured fanny pack or in a pocket of your clothing. We have never heard of anyone being pick pocketed, but it’s certainly a possibility in this kind of setting.
5. Carts on wheels are a really good idea. You won’t have to lug all your booty around on your back or in your arms. They are sold at various locations at the fair and cost between $20.00 and $30.00. These are sold with or without inserts, get the insert. That way you won’t have to worry about rain or things falling out…well worth the money.
6. Transportation. If you take your car remember to bring rope, bungee cords, and blankets to protect any large or delicate purchases, (there are also vendors who sell these things). If you know in advance that you’re looking for larger items, you may want to rent a small U-haul Van or truck. No fooling, this can be a huge time, frustration and back saver and it’s not too expensive especially if it’s split 3 or 4 ways among a group of your friends. If you do go with a group why not make a party out of it. We usually rent a room at one of the nearby hotels. It’s good to do this several months in advance. This way you can relax at the end of a long day with a cool beverage and a take-out pizza and show off your finds to your friends and see theirs.
Go at your own pace and try not to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of vendors. There’s a good chance you won’t get through the whole fair in a day maybe even two. Or you may find, as we have, that your funds have run out well before you’ve seen everything.
Paying for it. Cash, checks or credit cards. Most vendors prefer cash, checks are usually acceptable with ID but credit cards are rarely taken, except for large ticket items. ATM machines are available on site. Just ask any one of the helpful dealers or fairground staff where they are located.
We know you’ll love this place as much as we do. There’s something for everyone and it’s always an adventure. If given the choice between a vacation in Bermuda or Brimfield, (with no kids and no hubby, even though we love them dearly), we would without a doubt choose Brimfield, we think you will too.
Written by Kelly Farrington McGuill and Susan Farrington Owen