The year’s first Brimfield show is quickly approaching (May 10-15), so we thought we’d get all you first timers ready for this lovely but overwhelming experience.
The show’s official website is a veritable wealth of well-organized knowledge and cutting-edge design. Kidding! It looks like they made it on Geocities. Still worth checking out for all the show opening times though, and for helpful advice. I especially like numbers 3, 7, and 8: “Watch what you wear – don’t overdress. The trick is to look pretty much like everyone else”; “If you’re a casual or a serious collector, get a tee-shirt made up that says: ‘I COLLECT (whatever)’. You’ll be amazed at the people who come up to you“; and of course “Go when it’s raining.”
DO NOT do those things. Should go without saying. You will, however, see people doing precisely those things.
DO show up early and be ready for sun, rain, and lots of walking. Drink lots of water; Brimfield is an endurance event. Bring cash; some dealers take credit cards, but cash is king; the only ATMs at Brimfield have a $200 limit per transaction with an excessive fee tacked on. Haggle, but don’t lowball. Be respectful; the dealers are just trying to make a living, and they definitely aren’t getting rich either way. Try to spot some celebs. Tara met Diane Keaton five years ago!
You’ll find better deals at the end of the week, since nobody wants to pack up the same things they hauled all the way out there a week earlier. But you’ll also miss out on tons of great stuff that the earlybirds snatched up before anyone else even saw it.
F I E L D S
Brimfield is actually twenty-some separate flea market fields all clustered together. Some are open for just one day, others for the whole week, and the rest fall somewhere in between. These are the openings that we try to hit every year:
The Meadows: Not actually an opening but always our first stop. Open all week, no admission charge. Lots of big tents toward the back with European vendors whose beautiful finds are usually refreshingly unfamiliar. In other words, the best stuff! Pricier than you’d hope for at a flea market, but way less than you’d pay for Danish modern in a nice shop. And less than you’d pay for new crap!
Quaker Acres: Open all week, no admission charge. Mixed bag of vendors and always some good cheap finds in here.
Green Acres and other fields along the road that are open all week: Go in your free time between other openings. You never know!
Dealer’s Choice and Brimfield Acres North: Open Tuesdays at 11am and 1pm respectively. $5 admission. Go if you have some time to kill. If not, don’t bother. They’re way down the road to the West and we’ve never bought anything at either, from what I can remember. Plus, you’ll see most of the same vendors at Heart O The Mart on Wednesday, Mays on Thursday, and J+J on Friday. The one-day shows tend to attract all the same vendors making the rounds. They supposedly re-up from their warehouses throughout the week, but who knows.
New England Motel: Opens Tuesday at 6am, $5 admission. At this point, I honestly don’t think I can recommend getting up before dawn and waiting by the gate for this one. Tara and I set up at NE Motel the year we sold at Brimfield, but it seems to have gone downhill the six years since. Most of the quality vendors have packed up and moved elsewhere. It’s harder and harder to justify the wakeup time and the admission charge, when you can find better stuff elsewhere with no admission fee.
Heart O The Mart: Opens Wednesday at 9am, $5 admission. Large field, always some great stuff!
Hertan’s: Opens Wednesday at 12pm. No admission, but also no good stuff for the most part.
May’s: Opens Thursday at 9am. $5 admission and always a huge crowd waiting on both sides of the road. Great furniture and other vendors toward the back usually.
J&J: Opens Friday at 8am. $5 admission but honestly, we usually head home after May’s on Thursday. Even that might not be worth it anymore. Tuesday and Wednesday are the best!
F O O D
Brace yourself for some really poor descriptions of where things are.
So you’ve got your big food court on the North side of the road, tucked into the front of New England Motel, right? Don’t go there unless you’re dying for some pizza or fried something. Across the road and a hair East, there’s a strip of way better food options. There’s the Wrap and “Pilgrim Sandwich” truck (decent breakfast wraps); the Ben & Jerry’s stand (you should already know how good it is…love us some Milk & Cookies, Tonight Dough, and Cherry Garcia); and the only place to get a decent cup of coffee (though you might have to wait a while, you’ll get to enjoy some questionable preparation practices).
Right around the corner from Slowsky’s Coffee is perhaps the only place to eat where you won’t feel gross after: Hearty Eats. They do a Thai noodle salad, a falafel salad, and other lovely food and drink options. All great!
A C C O M M O D A T I O N S
Book ’em early! We’ve stayed all over the place–hotels, B&Bs, Airbnbs–everywhere but the back of a moving truck, which is where a lot of the vendors sleep.
We’ve never stayed anywhere I’d recommend, not even close. Everything nearby stinks. Your best bet is the closest hotel chain you can find. Really, closer the better, since the traffic can get pretty backed up coming in from the East most mornings.
Good luck and see you out there!
Martin Brider says
Good morning – I am writing from the Uk I have just been to Boston on holiday and went to Brimfield in July.
Really loved your blog on Brimfield and found it invaluable. Thank you so much for really valid information!
A truly memorable experience.
As an aside love your work you guys do!
Percy Bright says
Thanks Martin! Happy this was helpful, and even happier you had a fun time. It’s definitely an experience!
Heidi Bortner says
Hello from Doylestown, PA – I recently went to Brimfield on my way to a baking course in Norwich VT (King Arthur Flour). Probably the most brilliant vacation idea I’ve ever had. Baking and flea marketing=heaven (for me).
Brimfield was great (for a first timer who had no idea what to expect), but in reading your post, I think I will try next time for the beginning of the week as opposed to the Saturday I was actually there.
I did stay at an airbnb in S. Hadley, MA, which is about 35 minutes away. My experience in S. Hadley was very good- I would recommend Anna and her husband’s place anytime. My GPS got me to field grounds without a problem.
I went on a Saturday (Sept. 10), getting there at 8am. I didn’t get the impression that if I had gotten there at 6 am, my experience would have been better. Perhaps the really good stuff had flown out at the start of the week- nonetheless, I still found plenty to look at and buy.
About the food- although burger joints abound I also found food trucks that sold salads, wraps and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches (brie and fig!)
I wasn’t on a mission for specific items as I expect the interior designers who go there are- so as a design amateur, the Brimfield show did not disappoint.
peter cee says
We do Brimfield every year, usually May and September. We also leave Thursday afternoon. Some vendors hop from field to field so it is likely you will see a vendor at May’s on Thursday and again at J&J on Friday with the same stuff.
Love the Pilgrim, the BBQ stand next door, not so much. Made me ill last month.
There is also Elephant’s Trunk near Danbury CT every Sunday. Not as good as it used to be but close enough for that mildew fix you need to get while picking through boxes.