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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brimfield .......a guide

     Well it's early spring again in the northeast, and with spring my thoughts turn to all of the great antiques shows that will be happening from now until the weather turns cold again. Top on my list is Brimfield.  If you don't know what Brimfield is well, you probably need to get off this blog now because ....really...!!??    Seriously, Brimfield despite being a great small hamlet in south central Massachusetts,  refers to the tri-annual antiques mecca that crops up along route 20 in the town by the same name every May, July and September.
     With the May 2017 show ready to kick off in just 3 short weeks I thought I'd provide my take on this antique event.   Now Brimfield has many fans, as well as many foes. I'm a fan and I'll explain why.  The show is huge spread out over a mile and consisting of about 20 different separately run shows all along the same stretch of road, it's antiques paradise.  Now I love it because there is so much to see, so many different varieties of items, mostly it's old stuff, and true antiques.  Are there repros and fakes, absolutely.  Just like eBay crawls with junk there's plenty of that to be seen and avoided at Brimfield.  However with that said, it's hard to think of anywhere else that you will see so many treasures in one place.
     I love the fact that in a place like Brimfield knowledge is currency, for that exact reason many others will hate it, but for that reason alone I love it!  If you don't like crowds, or weather, or can't be bothered learning anything then stop now, and don't waste time or money going because you will hate it..  If you love the hunt ( I do!!!) and you are knowledgeable, and you understand what buyer beware means then please go, look, buy and soak it all in because in this country it gets no better for the antiques hunter than Brimfield.
All these globes, at just one dealer's booth
     OK lets slice and dice this show a bit, when is the best time to go....?  I know plenty of people who hit this thing 3 times a year.  Let's say you cant and you need to pick one.  Here are some observations.  The May show is arguably the biggest, it's been more than 6 months since the last Brimfield and the May show kinda opens the year for all of the antiques vendors in the northern tier of the country.  From May til September there will be shows weekly somewhere in the eastern US so this is the first and biggest,  translation: the freshest merchandise!  The downside to May is the weather it will be cooler, and there's a chance for rain more often in May than some other months.  July features hot humid weather, and antique pickers have been active in the northeast for a few months, rain will be less of a factor but thunderstorms this time of year are frequent but short lived.  September Brimfield is pleasant weather usually, and not as hot ( remember it's ALL outdoors)  Is the merchandise as fresh...? Probably not it's probably been shown at several shows by now being after Labor day but it's still plentiful that's a given. Some say the September show is a bit smaller,  yeah probably....
     OK so you've decided when to go,  now  where do you stay?   Brimfield the town is not large, the closest town with hotel rooms is Sturbridge MA  after that it's Auburn MA to the east and Springfield to the west.  I'm going to list my top 3 lodging choices, understand I travel 6 hours one way to get here and I like comfort...A LOT..!
1. In Southbridge MA about 20 minutes south of Brimfield you'll find the Southbridge Hotel and   Conference center  This is not the closest but it is the nicest place to stay and it will cost less than some lesser quality hotels closer to Brimfield.  My first choice

2. In the Holyoke/ Chickopee MA ( west of town) area there are quite a few mid range national chains they are 20 minutes from Brimfield with the added bonus of being near quite a few decent places to eat. Think Hampton INN, and Homewood suites  that level of accommodation

3. East of Brimfield is Wooster/ Auburn MA  : these locals are 30 minutes or so away and will be national mid range chains

Finally,  Sturbridge MA is 10 minutes or so from Brimfield and their few hotel selections are very pricey during show weeks, think double or triple the other 49 weeks of the year, I just can't recommend staying here. Not to mention the Sturbridge hotels are iffy on the quality, in my opinion anyhow.

     Brimfield is a near week long marathon of  20 different shows some start on Tuesday, and run all week some like the famous J+J show run only two days  so if you don't have a week to spend then whats the best game plan.  Well I'm going to lay out 3 different plans of attack, for those spending 1, 2, or 3 days at the show.

First up lets say your like me and you love antiques, not just globes but you appreciate other antiques as well, so you're willing to take a few days off and spend 3 days at the show.  I recommend then arriving Tuesday evening, check in to your hotel and gear up for a VERY early morning Wednesday.  Come 5am or so Wednesday be out the door and traveling to Brimfield because Wednesday will be packed with opening day on 3 different show fields.
     New England Motel  opens op their show field at 6AM  so the early bird gets the worm, 400 dealers await, park your car here, it's central to your Wednesday schedule,  browse this field for 2 hours, whatever you buy hustle it to your car, by 8am......because.......

At 9 am the second field opens Heart O the Mart,  This is another 400 dealers so now it will have been 800 different dealers all in the span of less than 4 hours.

12 noon brings the third and final show opening of this busy Wednesday Hertans antique field opens with over 150 fresh dealers, bringing your Wednesday total to nearly 1000 dealers.  Given the cost and logistics and other restrictions these shows weed out your fly by night wannabees  that populate a lot of run of the mill shows, they are a step up for sure.

OK day one is in the bag it's an early start but over by 2pm,  I usually head back to the hotel take a quick nap and grab a great meal , it will be early to bed but Thursday will not be the crack of dawn rising that Wednesday was....

Day 2, I arrive and park at May's field,  all the action will be in and around May's on Thursday.  Now I have to confess this is my favorite show field May's Brimfield  is a 500 dealer extravaganza, that opens 9am sharp, be aware that the show and it's parking lot are across the street from each other.  I just love the fact that at May's they have a higher standard, many of their dealers have been coming for years and years, they turn away dealers who don't offer the quality that they have been known for.  I hit the show right at 9 and by 11:30 I'm ready for lunch.
      This is the only opening on Thursday, the rest of the day you can hit one or two of the other fields that are open all week.  It's an early day really.


Day 3 starts early ( see a pattern)  this being Friday, the town sees an influx of early weekend starters from Boston, and New York the latter is only 2.5 hours away by car. J&J Brimfield  is the original and grandaddy of them all. They open their 2 day extravaganza today... This show opens at the very reasonable 8am.  This is considered by many to be the best dealers, the cream of the crop, I've had good luck here in the past so I can't argue with that.  Park right at the J&J show for $8  admission Friday is $5
The 7am crowd ready to " rush" the J&J field

Well if you have 3 days that's my recommended itinerary.  You see maximum fresh antiques and you avoid the lookey loos that infest the place on the weekend.   I'm a firm believer that the serious buying, and the best selection is during the week by the weekend it's leftovers.

Now what if you have only 2 days .  Well I'd still follow day 1, and 2 from above and I'd cut out the Friday show,  you still see 80% of what the 3 day person sees, one long day followed by a shorter day not a bad plan.

What if I can only spare one day to get to the show,  well in that case your probably a casual buyer,  and I have an alternate itinerary for you.  Hit the show early ( like by 8 am) Sunday.  Browse all you can in that one day.  I recommend Sunday if you only have one day because maybe just maybe on Sunday you can drive a harder bargain especially on a larger item like furniture that's hard for a dealer to pack and transport.

     Well that's my down and dirty take on the Brimfield experience.  It's been almost 2 years since I have been. I'll be following the 3 day itinerary this year. Last time I left many good deals on the show field because I had/ have a tendency to pull the trigger rather slowly I love to research sometimes you gotta go with your gut.  Brimfield is a gut shopper type place.....hope to see some friends there.....

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