10 Tips for Navigating the Brimfield Show

It is hard to believe it is almost time for the Brimfield Antiques Show again!  I shared an earlier post about how much I love to take my annual trek to the mecca of all things antique and vintage.

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For those not familiar, the Brimfield Show is held in Brimfield, Massachusetts three times each year (May, July and September).  Yankee magazine describes it as both the Ultimate Antique Treasure Hunt and a three ring circus.  It has become a rite of passage for many antique lovers in the region and attracts visitors from around the world.  According to  Yankee Magazine, the number of antique dealers (6,000) alone outnumber the town’s population (3,500) which swells to upwards of 130,000 during the show.

I will be one of the dealers at the show in May.  If you’re in the area please come by for a visit! I will be at the New England Motel & Antiques Market  (303A & B) at the center of the action from Wednesday May 9th through Saturday May 12th, 2012.  Look for me on the right just after you come through the main entrance.  The New England Motel Show hours run from 6am to 5pm on opening day (Wednesday) and 8:30am to 5pm for the duration.

As I gear up for the May event, I thought it would be timely to share some of my tips on attending the show.  To learn more, check out this link.

1.  If you see something you love, buy it on the spot.

One lesson it has taken me too long to learn is that if you see something you really love and you can afford—buy it on the spot.  There is so much to see and so much geography to cover that even if you had the time to circle back, it is easy to forget where you found your vintage treasure in the first place! It is also very likely that in the meantime someone else has found it a new home.  If you absolutely have to walk away, it is good to note the name and location of the show and dealer in the event you want to take your chance at a return visit.

2.  Don’t worry if it is too big to carry.

If you buy something, you can get a receipt from the dealer and a business card with the name of the field and the location of the booth.  Before heading home you can drive to most spots or a pick-up zone to load up your car.  Just check to see what times pick-ups are allowed in that particular field.  Also, if you need to come back for your fab find another day, be sure you confirm with the dealer a good day and time to return.  Some shows are open all week, some one day, some have optional days.

3.  Consider getting help with Shipping & Delivery.

Shipping services are available along the Show route and you will see places where they sell rolling shopping carts to carry your wares and even porters to help you collect your purchases.  It is a good idea to check with the services first about shipping large or heavy items and the costs and logistics.  It is great to have options for those larger items that won’t fit in your car.  Last year, I bought an oversized storage cabinet and the dealer offered free delivery since it wouldn’t fit in my van.  Lucky for me the dealer lived in a neighboring town! Some things are just meant to be…

4.    Cash is king.

You will get the best deals if you pay in cash.  While there is a cash machine at the New England Motel Food Court, it is better to come prepared and hit the ground running.

5.     Dress comfortably and bring some baggage

Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and shoes as you will do a lot of walking.  Layers work best so you can adjust to the changing temperature.  After experiencing the rainiest Brimfield ever last September, I would say ALWAYS bring a rain coat and galoshes just in case.  Not only will they keep you dry, they will allow you to hunt out some better pricing while those fair weather shoppers stay home or go running for cover.  For the smaller and medium purchases that you might carry with you, consider a fold up bag, backpack or rolling cart.

6.     Kids and carriages can slow you down

I’ve had lots of fun and success going to Brimfield with my little ones but our usual 6-8 hour shopping window shrinks considerably.  In general it is easy to navigate Brimfield with strollers.  Be aware that a few fields have gravel and the carriages can be hard to push in those areas. I can vouch for that!  If you are bringing the little ones have realistic expectations of how much of your shopping they can endure!  Sun screen, sun visors for the carriage or hats, layered clothing and a bag full of snacks and beverages.  A stop at the Food Court for a breather may buy you some extra time but try to avoid the Noon rush by opting for an earlier lunch (11am).

7.    Familiarize yourself with the Show Schedule and locations.

Brimfield is not just one antique show but a collection of shows.  Some shows are open for one day, some for the whole week and some opening dates and times are staggered.  Look at the show schedule to help you select the best day or days of the week to visit.

8.  Pick the best day for you.

In general I like going to Brimfield earlier in the week for the best selection.  Of course that depends on the weather forecast and childcare coverage among many other things!   I have friends who always go on Sunday because there are more deals to be had—especially on larger items that have to be packed up and hauled back.  In my book, any day at Brimfield is a good day.  Go when it is convenient for you, but realize the trade-offs.

9.    Arrive early and expect to pay for parking.

If you are driving to Brimfield the day of the show—leave as early as you can stomach.  Set your GPS and grab breakfast on the road.  Early birds will  be rewarded with prime parking spots in central locations and first crack at what the day has to offer.   Expect to pay $5 -$10 for parking per day.  If you get there on the early side park at the New England Motel & Antiques Market.   If you get stuck in lots of traffic, keep an eye out for signs for parking.  You may be better off parking and hoofing it rather than waiting in traffic if things are at a standstill.

10.  Enjoy the hunt!

My very best memories of Brimfield are scouring the fields first with my husband (who takes a vacation day each May to attend Brimfield as my birthday gift), then during my pregnancies (although the frequent trips to the Porta-Potties nearly killed me), and now with my daughters who have developed their own sense of affection for all that is Brimfield.  My youngest came home with a few finds last year including a free vintage basket from a sweet dealer that just liked her spunk.  Not a bad deal for a 4 year old!  We have brought home some great finds from Brimfield but even when I come home empty handed the sheer joy of the hunt is enough to keep me coming back year after year.  It looks like I will be in good company!

If you have some favorite things about Brimfield or tips for the hunt, please share!  Hope to see you there!

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