Brimfield might be a small town in south-central Massachusetts with a 2010 census population of just 3,609, but three times a year (usually around Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day) it plays host to the Brimfield Antiques Show — a dizzying display of items and collectibles from the past, and the people that love to buy and sell them.
The Brimfield Antiques Show got its start back in 1959, when local auctioneer and resident Gordon Reid decided to host an open air auction. It was so successful that neighbors started opening their yards and fields to dealers, and the momentum hasn’t slowed since. Today, the tri-annual event is widely considered to be the biggest and the best antiques bazaar in America. Spanning 23 fields with over 6,000 dealers, each “show” draws around 130,000 buyers and browsers.
This is just one of the thousands of dealer booths (or tents).
I made it to opening day at the year’s first Brimfield show last week along with a few other Yankee staffers. We were on a mission to track down items chosen by our online readers (that’s you!) in our first ever Yankee Quest scavenger hunt.
We were successful in capturing photos of some of the items you chose, like old cookbooks, typewriters, maple syrup cans, box cameras, travel posters, and even an issue of Yankee!
Being new to Brimfield, and a huge fan of antiques, I found the experience enthrallingly numbing. It’s nearly impossible to see everything, so at some point I stopped trying. Still, it was like every vintage kitchen search term I had ever entered into Ebay was suddenly right in front of me—in bulk. Candy-colored nested Pyrex bowl sets, gauzy embroidered linen towels, lovingly scarred wooden bread boards, and cheery ceramic salt and pepper shakers shaped like chipmunks. They were all there.
Like anyone experiencing severe sensory overload (and to be honest, sticker shock), I bought nothing, but I sure did look.
There were cameras, crank-handled ice cream freezers, and Easter egg display dishes.
Crocks of wooden spoons and sofas reminiscent of “The Golden Girls” lanai.
Spatulas, washboards, and a tin of pure ginger in beautiful muted colors — patina perfection.
Groovy green wire chairs, vintage egg beaters, and feed sacks.
The tables overflowed.
It was an overcast Tuesday, but both the weather and the day of the week didn’t seem to slow anyone down. The crowds were thick on both sides of Route 20 and their eyes were roving, their arms full.
When it was time for lunch, I was surprised to see the New England Motel along the Brimfield route had the equivalent of a rural food court set up, with tables and chairs surrounded by food options — both traditional (Pete’s Roast Beef Sandwiches) and modern (Mac Shack Macaroni and Cheese).
Nobody goes hungry at Brimfield.
After eating it was back to browsing. Santa, a clutch of knitting needles, and lots of patterned tablecloths were waiting.
It’s true some of the things at Brimfield tiptoe past strange into “really strange,” but that’s part of the fun. Dolls made from cans and funnels, anyone?
Whatever you want, from collectibles to furniture to clever upcycled storage, Brimfield has it.
I think it’s going to take me a few more visits to fully develop my Brimfield legs, and if the event’s growth over the past forty years is any indication, I will have plenty of opportunities to make it back to the show.
Have you ever been to Brimfield? What did you think? What treasures did you find?