Tell Us Your Brimfield Secrets!

By Ben

May 4th, 2010

Here’s a quick preview of The Brimfield Antiques Show, which begins next week. To share your experiences at this amazing antiques event, please use the Comments box below.

In September 1959, an auctioneer in Brimfield, Massachusetts, opened his backyard to 67 exhibitors and launched Gordon Reid’s Famous Antiques Show. Reid’s neighbors gradually caught on to the idea—today, The Brimfield Antiques Show is the largest open-air antiques market in the world.

Held three times a year (May 11-16, July 13-18, and September 7-12 in 2010, rain or shine), the event covers more than 20 fields over a mile-long stretch on both sides of I-20. Each field is run by an individual promoter and keeps its own operating days and hours. Around 5,000 vendors and 130,000 visitors are expected for the upcoming spring show.

After Reid passed away in 1974, his daughters, Judy Reid Mathieu and Jill Reid Lukesh, took over his show at the same location under the banner J&J Promotions.

“We’ve continued to respect our father’s wishes of selling antiques and old collectibles,” Mathieu says. “We sell no reproductions or new merchandise in our field. People come from all over the world to our show. They know they’re going to find great quality antiques.

“This is our 51st show,” she adds. “We were the original and only show for several years. This year our show is on May 14 and 15. Those are the only two days when all the major shows are open at the same time. Those are the prime days.”

Brimfield visitors often say they buy things at the show they didn’t even know they wanted. Mathieu says people visiting her field have taken home everything from an old English phone booth to Wyatt Earp’s gun. If you’re looking for something specific at Brimfield, you may want to visit the Brimfield Exchange website to search for dealers specializing in such collectibles categories as scientific instruments, the Civil War, breweriana, decoys, Victorian furniture, jewelry and gemstones, lithographs and engravings, coins, photographica, quilts, ceramics, comics, and vintage clothing.

Back when Reid started his antiques show more than 50 years ago, the dealers essentially sold their wares out of the backs of their station wagons. These days, most of the vendors operate out of large tents with plenty of browsing space.

The show’s facilities have also kept pace with its massive popularity: There are food and drink booths throughout the show route—the centrally located New England Motel also has a large and popular food court—and all the fields come equipped with clean and comfortable portable restroom facilities. Some dealers take checks and credit cards, and ATMs are available along Route 20.

Getting to the show, however, presents a challenge, as the town of Brimfield offers no local public transportation options. Parking is available at varying prices, and all lots offer handicapped parking spaces. The major routes leading into Brimfield are I-84, I-90, and I-91. Maps and directions can also be found at the Brimfield Exchange website.

Local lodging is typically booked months or even years in advance, but the Brimfield Show website offers suggestions for lodging in towns located within about 30 minutes of the site.

Clay Smith, a Connecticut-based vintage and antique toy dealer who has set up shop at Brimfield in Hertan’s field for the past three years, advises new visitors to bring a cart to haul their purchases back to their car. He also says that hiring a porter is an option. Although individual dealers don’t offer shipping, there are shipping services in town.

A number of the fields charge admission of $5 or more, especially on opening day, but most do not. Admission fees are also typically waived later in the day.

Of course, visitors are advised to wear comfortable walking shoes and several layers of clothing in preparation for New England’s notoriously unpredictable weather. “We jokingly tell people to bring everything from bathing suits to fur coats,” Mathieu says.

Text by Brad Quinn; Images courtesy Brian Herzog

Got any great Brimfield tips to share? Please post them in the Comments box below.

9 comments so far

  1. judy lake Says:

    One week away from Brimfield Flea Market and I am making piles of fabrics, to remember lists, my booth display and making some fresh lampshades with vintage fabrics. Bring water, cash, arrive early. My suggestion is pace yourself and have fun. September was my first time selling at Brimfield; I have sold at many craft fairs over the years but Brimfield was a blast, much more fun than any craft show I ever did. Come find me at Shelton’s B53, way in back w/ Mary, Phillipa, Cary, Melissa, Sharon, the folks for the Adirondacks and many more. We’ve got a great cache of designer finds.

  2. Keri Seery Says:

    This year will be my second time setting up at the Brimfield show. I can’t wait!! I have been busy for months collecting interesting smalls and furnitures and anything else that is beautiful and interesting. To sum it up there is no other show like Brimfield in the world. People travel from everywhere to come to this highly anticipated show. Like Judy said water and your own food supply and a good pair of sneakers is a must for the show. It is easy to get overwhelmed so make a list of key items that you are looking for or else you will go cross eyed!! I have been posting some of my treasures on my blog called http://www.antiquetherapy.com for more info and stories about Brimfield. I will also be in Shelton field in area B-57. See you all there and happy hunting!!

  3. Style carrot Says:

    I’ve been to brimfield twice now, last sept and may, and even wrote about it for my blog, http://www.stylecarrot.com and the Boston Globe Magazine. It can be overwhelming .. Ask someone who knows, or research online, for one to three “fields” to visit and concentrate your efforts there. Jill Goldberg, owner of Hudson boutique in Boston’s south end, steered me to Quaker Acres. I also like the Meadows, and have cruised through central park. Good luck!

  4. Tricia Says:

    I recently did a post on this, my first trip to Brimfield I thought would be my last…but no I am a vendor and am hooked. I set up in Central Park space #2 and am really near the main street thru Brimfield. Don’t feel pressured to get to every opening…there is sooooo much stuff to see and there will still be stuff to purchase even if you miss the openings! Bring all weather gear, you never know what the weather will be like! don’t be discouraged in the logistics…try to keep an open mind. Hire porters that walk the street with their wagons, it is worth every penny! Read more about my latest blog post as a contributor at: http://frenchcupboard.blogspot.com/2010/05/brimfield-antique-week.html
    You can find me at my blog http://thereddoorantiques.blogspot.com/
    I am on twitter and facebook too! Follow my tweets all the way thru Brimfield…the highs the lows and everything in between. Visit my blog for more details and links!

  5. Dan Morean Says:

    On Saturday, May 15th, there will be a show dedicated only to vintage beer cans and beer advertising (breweriana). Dealers and collectors from all over the US specializing in Breweriana will be attending. Free appraisals of breweriana will be provided by Breweriana.com. The show is at the eastern end, on Rt. 20 at Brimfield’s Pynchon House Antiques directly across the street from St. Christopher’s church…just east of the only traffic light in Brimfield. More information is available at http://www.breweriana.com/blog/Show-at-Breweriana.com-.html .

  6. emily aka crazycakes Says:

    This will be my tenth year setting up in J&J. couldn’t be more excited for this show. Have lots and lots of goodies in this load! come see me in J&J booth c 11 & 12 under the BIG tent.

  7. louise:Mes Idees of vermont Says:

    Will be set up in Mahogony Ridge for the 7th year..Always something new to wear for 2010 season..handbags,Jackets,Hats,overalls vest’s lots more .If this peeks your curiousity come and see what I have to offer..lots of color..I use new and vintage fabrics..see you this season louise

  8. Sandy Redburn Says:

    I finally got to attend this show last Sept with my husband and even though we only had 1 day we managed to cover several fields, find some great deals and the weather was perfect! I took lots of photos and posted some on my blog here: http://heartwarmingvintage.blogspot.com/2009/09/brimfield-antique-show-plus-new-samples.html

    I’m always searching for vintage images in books and paper and I wonder if anyone knows a specific field that has more old paper items? If you do, can you please email me at: sandy@craftysecrets.com Thanks a bunch!

  9. Cat & Dan Horn Says:

    Cat & I own a little antique shoppe in the Arts District in Las Vegas, Nevada…We hope next year we will be able to join you all…please let us know how much fun you guys are having out there…
    And Cat & I just to wish each and everyone a Wondrous Time…much success, friends, much success…
    Have Fun
    Dan & Cat


Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item, try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery.