The Brimfield Antique Show is billed as the largest outdoor antique show in the country. Located in Western Massachusetts in the charming town of Brimfield, the show is held three times a year in May, July and September and is a not to be missed treasure hunt for the diehard antiques fan.
With over 6,000 dealers, odds are good that you will find that special something that you are looking for along with countless other treasures you didn’t even know you needed. And while I conquered Brimfield in one day, the serious antiques collector could spend several days at the show and still not see it all. It really is that massive.
The following are some tips and tricks I learned during my Brimfield experience that will hopefully better prepare you for a day of treasure shopping…
Before you even start your car, be sure to study the show schedule. The Brimfield Antique Show consists of many sub shows that are open on different days and times. And while there are always dealers open for business on any given day, certain fields are open on certain days with different start times. I planned my visit to coincide with the May’s Antique Market opening which requires vendors to set up their wares at the same time that the gates open which sort of levels the playing field for all.
Going earlier in the week may be beneficial if you want choice pick of the offerings, but rest assured that you will still find tons of desirable merchandise if you go towards the end of the show and you’ll have the added benefit of getting a better price so that the vendors avoid lugging their wares home.
As you drive into Brimfield on Rte 20, you will see many private parking lots with attendants trying to wave you in. Resist the urge to park at the first lots you see. There’s tons of parking in the heart of the action and it costs only a few dollars more. You do not want to be walking back to a remote parking spot after a day of non-stop walking. Not to mention you will be lugging your purchases around and they will feel exponentially heavier as you walk to your bargain $5 parking spot.
I arrived at 8:30am on Thursday which was the opening day of May’s. I was one of the first people in the lot and I paid $8 to park. The lot which is located right across the street from May’s is smack dab in the middle of the Brimfield action which makes it a no-brainer parking spot. Spend the extra $3. Your feet and arms will thank you.
What to Bring
A trip to Brimfield is not as simple as jumping in the car with your pocketbook. There are some items that you really should bring along with you or your day will not be as lovely as it ought to be. Here are the necessities:
- Cash While some dealers have card readers for their smartphones, cash is still king. ATMs are readily available, but the surcharges are hefty. Bring cash and keep it close to your body.
- Sunscreen There are few shady spots in this outdoor show besides the tents that house the dealers. You will be exposed to the sun all day long, so be certain to bring sunscreen. I did not see anyone selling it at the show, so be prepared.
- Umbrella Conversely it could rain all day long, so put an umbrella in your vehicle in case you need it. The show is rain or shine. Be prepared for rain.
- Hand Wipes You will be so very glad that you brought hand wipes to Brimfield because your hands will be filthy after an hour into it. I saw only one hand washing station at Brimfield. Eating lunch will be miserable with 100 year old dust on your hands. Bring wipes.
- Shopping Cart While a shopping cart sounds like overkill, you will be so thankful for it after you make your first purchase. That two pound mixing bowl is going to feel like a twenty pound bowling ball about fifteen minutes after you purchase it. Seemingly everyone toted a shopping cart around, so you will be in very good company. I especially like this shopping cart as it has a liner and cover.
- Padding Toss in some old towels, newspaper or tattered shirts to wrap around breakables. As you wheel your cart over the gravel and grassy grounds of Brimfield, things will jostle and bump into each other in your cart. Wrapping your treasures in some fabric or paper will protect them.
- Water Bottles Staying hydrated is very important while you walk around in the hot sun. Be sure to bring water. If you don’t feel like carting around water all day long, there are vendors who sell it for $1-$2 per bottle.
Know What It’s Worth
If you collect anything, odds are good that you are familiar with the values of your collection. But if you want to purchase something that you aren’t familiar with, use your smartphone to see what the item is worth by discretely doing a search on eBay or Etsy. Do be sure to be discrete as a courtesy to the dealer. But don’t feel guilty for looking up a value because no one wants to be hosed. And knowing the value of an antique helps with the next tip, haggling…
While the idea of haggling may sound intimidating, it is entirely expected at Brimfield. You will not insult the dealers if you haggle the proper way. The easiest way I’ve found to get a better price is to ask that very question. “What is your best price for this?” I did not pay sticker price for a single thing I purchased at Brimfield. Often times I paid almost half of what the items were marked. And if you feel that the price is not reasonable enough, know that you will probably see that same item somewhere else at Brimfield for less money.
All of this antique hunting is going to make you hungry. Lucky for you, Brimfield is brimming over with good eats. Of course there’s the requisite carnival fare like funnel cakes, kettle corn, ice cream and other fat and carb laden treats, but there are also vendors offering up unique options like the fantastic pilgrim sandwich I had for lunch which was a pretty good deal for $8.50. It wasn’t a small sandwich for darn sure and it was stuffed with freshly carved before my eyes turkey. Wonderful.
I also saw beautiful lobster rolls, Thai food, barbecue and chowder, just to name a few. You won’t go hungry at Brimfield.
At some point you will need to visit a potty during your visit. While there are lots of porta potties at Brimfield, I only saw one with hand washing facilities. That’s not to say that there aren’t more, it’s just the only one I saw that day. While I am not a fan of porta potties, honestly I hate them, these potties were tolerable because the one I used was manned by an attendant and kept as clean as a porta potty could be. This station which was located in the Hertan field was about as good as it gets. Washing my hands felt awesome!
Kids or No Kids, Pets or No Pets
The Brimfield Antique Show is not particularly kid or pet friendly. So many breakables are placed on makeshift shelving on portable tables that one bump could bring the entire display down. I did see some kids in strollers and none of them looked happy. And while I didn’t see a no pets sign anywhere, the general consensus was that they aren’t welcome. Think hard before bringing your little folk or fur babies.
The Brimfield Antique Show is a not to be missed event for the antiques lover. And even if you don’t buy a single thing, it’s great fun to take a long walk through history and marvel about how much times have changed. Do your homework ahead of time and bring the suggested necessities and you will thoroughly enjoy your time in the quaint New England town of Brimfield, Massachusetts.
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