A Traditional, Old Time Flea Mkt. Experience
Ah, the traditional, old-time New England flea market. Thinking of it conjures up visions of wonderful antique furniture, old farm implements, locally grown produce, baked goods fresh from the neighbor’s kitchen, and piles of unusual old bric-a-brac, leaving customers to wonder what use those contraptions possibly could have served.
Flea markets were once a staple in New England, allowing sellers to clean out their barns and basements, and allowing homeowners, collectors, and used merchandise dealers the opportunity to pick up some bargains. In recent years, many of the old-time flea markets have disappeared, or been replaced by markets mostly containing cheap clothing, imported jewelry, and plastic household goods.
Still, a few of the great old-fashioned flea markets, where buyers can find true antique treasures, exist. One of those markets takes place on the common in Orford, the first weekend in August each year.
This Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4, the annual Orford Flea Market, sponsored by the Orford Volunteer Fire Department, takes place. Having visited, and exhibited at this market for the past 25 years (it’s been going on for over 40 years), I can attest to the fact that it does retain the flavor of those old-time markets many of us remember fondly.
Looking for antiques? Most of the over 100 exhibitors that routinely set up in Orford bring a good array of antiques, collectibles, and cool old stuff. You can find fine old furniture, rusty old metal implements, and everything in between. Particular emphasis is on things one would find in northern New England homes and barns 50, 100, or even 150 years ago.
Not everything displayed falls into the “really old” category, however. Many collectors today want things they remember from their childhood, so one will find items of a more recent vintage - from the sixties and seventies, for instance. Toys, furniture, and vinyl records are just some of those type of items found here.
Many booths also sport practical, used merchandise. Need a good working lamp, blender, or power tool? You will likely have a good choice of all of these on the field.
Items devoted to outdoor recreation are usually well represented, too. You may find a canoe or kayak, and most certainly will find paddles, fishing and hunting equipment, skis, snowshoes, bicycles and hiking sticks. All manner of sporting collectibles are seen, too.
Yes, you will find some new merchandise here, but that is scattered between the booths of used and old merchandise, and it does not detract from this market’s traditional look and flavor.
Speaking of flavor, some great, locally produced food products sell at the market. Jams, jellies, syrup, baked goods and jerky products are sold in various booths. In addition, the volunteer firefighters set up a huge food tent, where visitors find breakfast and lunch fare, along with drinks and dessert.
What else will one find walking through the market? The more appropriate question is what won’t you find? Some of the other items I see well represented at Orford include old tools, artwork, gardening items, books, and signs and advertising. Even used and vintage clothing is regularly seen.
The market has an advertising opening time of 9am, but on Saturday, buyers are on the field as early as 6, looking for bargains. Most exhibitors begin setting up around 6am, so if you arrive early, you will not be disappointed. Parking is usually reasonable, with customers able to park along Route 10, or at the north end of the common. If you arrive closer to 9 or 10, do expect a bit of a walk to the field, however. Weather is often warm and dry for this market, but don’t be afraid to come if there are some rain showers. Most dealers are prepared to exhibit and sell through some rainfall. Sunday shoppers can expect a more easy going atmosphere, with less customer traffic, and fewer dealers (some dealers only exhibit on Saturday). However, Sunday shoppers may find some real bargains, as some dealers are prepared to offer greater discounts before heading home. Finally, remember this is a flea market, so bring cash. Though many dealers will accept a check, few will be set up to take debit or credit cards.
(The Orford Flea Market takes place Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4. It is held on the common in Orford, right on Route 10, just north of the bridge to Fairlee.)