The secrets to navigating America's oldest and largest outdoor antique show and flea market like a seasoned pro.
For a week each May, July and September, an estimated 6,000 dealers take over 21 grass fields in central Massachusetts, luring serious bargain-hunters with rare finds and killer deals. Simply put, Brimfield is a vintage paradise, the place where Vogue editors stock up on gone-era Louis Vuitton steamers, and Ralph Lauren riggers source all shapes and eras of leather club chairs with perfect patina. It was during his time with the latter brand that veteran designer Lee Norwood first learned his way around the show. Now, decades later, the Polo wunderkind turned creative director of Oobe, one of the South's top emerging outdoor brands, shares his tips for cutting to the treasure-laden heart of Brimfield's massive shoppingscape.
Don't attempt the whole week unless you're a professional antiques dealer. In July you're also contending with scorching heat, so hydration and sunblock are essential.
Opening times vary by field and day, and some fields require tickets. Start with the Meadows on Tuesday. Park in the lot down Warren Rd./Rt. 19, right behind the Sturtevant's field. Buy a bag of Faddy's doughnuts; then head straight to my favorite vendor, Eneby Antik, for beautiful Swedish antiques.
Heart-O-The-Mart is probably the show's most famous field. It opens at 9 AM on Wednesday and covers 17 acres. I always go see the Ross Bros., who specialize in nautical collectibles and 19th-century canoes and wooden boats.
You can spot Brimfield newbies immediately. They're decked out in a trendy Bohemian look and cowboy boots. Trust me, go for comfort and wear running sneakers. Your feet will thank you.
Personally, I only do the show in May, and only on Tuesday and Wednesday. Arrive the Monday before to attend the Sturbridge Vintage Fashion and Textile Show (same goes for September). Minnesotans Bruce and Lynda Tomlinson have become the star attraction, selling vintage clothing from the 1800s to the 1960s.
When you go: Longtime visitors like Norwood typically rent lakefront cottages in the surrounding woods (check out airbnb.com and lakelashawayrental.com for more). For newcomers, there are also plenty of standout hotels and motels in nearby Sturbridge. Either way, the quickest way in is a flight into Boston, followed by a quick hour’s drive west.