What: Brimfield Flea Market
Where: Brimfield, MA
When: May, July & September
Sweet Tips: Bring water, a hat and be on the lookout for the Faddy’s Donuts

The first time I went to The Brimfield Antiques Show I was pregnant with my daughter (now 10). I didn’t realize it at the time, it was early in the pregnancy and she was a bit of a surprise. It was also July and boiling hot, and what I thought would be a pleasant meandering through New England antique stalls and vendors was more akin to hiking Death Valley with $2,000 in your pocket while also picking up heavy piles of jewelry and accessories and indiscriminately forking over money to strangers. My first trimester nausea, alternating with starvation, drove me straight to one of the breakfast sandwich vendors in outdoor the food court; while that seemed a good idea at the time, I spent the next twenty minutes standing utterly still fearing a sudden move would send me running to a dreaded port-a-potty. After a passing wave of nausea I built enough confidence to begin my treasure hunt, although my uneasiness returned throughout the day, which I attribute to both heat and over-stimulation. You would think this would have been enough to deter me, but I couldn’t get enough and I was pregnant and determined. Now, here I am a decade later, planning my next Brimfield trip after sending my daughter off to begin fifth grade.

My pulse quickens upon walking into anywhere that has antiques, multiple vintage vendor stalls, donut vendors, and a breakfast sandwich kiosk. The Brimfield Flea Market is one of those gigantic, outdoor antiques shows of justifiable repute. Just a few hours north from New York City, and a quick jaunt west from Boston, it has long since been discovered by stylists and designers from across the country who gather to forage for distinctive household goods, offbeat antiques, and even gigantic 1920s apothecary boxes (Morphine anyone?). So, while you can find as many quirky things as your heart desires, the prices are higher than you'd expect at an average flea market.

The town of Brimfield itself is a quaint speck on the map with dealers from across the country descending three times a year for the antiques show. Accordingly, some planning is required as there is nowhere “local” to stay, although Sturbridge, MA or Northern Connecticut will offer Airbnb or other modest accommodations.   The market is known for its larger, heavier pieces of furniture and quirky antiques, some of which may be too large to throw in the trunk of a rental car, which you will need to get here. If you are really hunting seriously for furniture there are shippers set up along the main road and most dealers will arrange shipping for you or allow you to leave pieces while you sort it out. But the most straightforward approach is just to bring your own truck (rent a U-Haul well in advance as most of the area rentals are likely to be booked).

As you might imagine, I naturally gravitate towards vintage jewelry, clothing, and accessories that have inspired past (and will inspire future) collections and designs. I also have a love of old signage for fonts and illustration, which I draw from professionally and is often represented in my work. I find that I have a 2-3 hour limit for hunting and pecking at which point my vision goes completely one dimensional, or I am out of money, whichever comes first. (Note: most vendors will now accept Venmo but many prefer hard cash and it is often easier to negotiate that way.)

This week, my first trip back since the pandemic, I’ll be shopping for a small selection of vintage pieces which I will make available for sale online afterwards. Follow along on Instagram @candyshopvintage this coming Wednesday & Thursday and if  you happen to be there please say hi, I'll be the one at the donut stand in a feather boa.

Deirdre Colligan