Navigating the Brimfield Fair ~ Sept. 7-12, 2021

Vintage enamelware, a copper jam kettle, wooden shoes, wire baskets, and autumn mums are waiting for you at this booth ~ Courtesy image


An aerial view of the fair ~ Courtesy image

As promised, I want to offer up some more shopping tips for what I feel is one of the best antique fairs around! I have been attending Brimfield nearly every year for over 16 years. I’ve learned a lot of what to do and not do, and to this day I still have not explored the entire Fair. It’s huge! Covering 22 acres and consisting of well over 300 vendors, there is something for everyone. Except for the kids. And dogs. Trust me and leave both at home. The address is  35 Palmer Road, Brimfield MA 01910

The fair runs for 6 days every May, July, and September. July tends to be quieter but also a lot hotter (although this year it was wetter). September is a wonderful season to go as the weather is often more predictable. The fair starts on Tuesdays and this is when the booths are chock full of finds. If you can brave a rainy day (please wear boots and not flip flops!!) you will find that vendors are more likely to bring prices down. And if you wait until the last day, Sunday, loads of bargains are to be found, just fewer treasures are still left. Located less than an hour away, off the Mass Pike, it’s a relatively quick and easy ride.

1. Go early. If you can get there by 7, you will find you are not alone, but it is quieter and easier to park and navigate the aisles. By mid-day, it’s a zoo so be prepared for long lines of cars, the crowds, and distant parking.

2. When you take the Brimfield exit onto Route 20 East, you will come across a Dunkin’s—on the left—a couple of miles up the road. Stop to grab some caffeinated fuel and use the bathroom. It will most likely be the last clean one you will see for the day.

3. Cash is King. Bring lots of it and in various denominations. It’s hard to bargain an item down to $4 and then ask for change of a $20. There are ATMs available, but they do charge a hefty fee.

Are these doorknobs waiting for you? Courtesy image

4. Stock up – bring snacks and water. I often bring lunch as well. The food vendors have some good food choices but wouldn’t you rather spend your money on the vintage glass door knobs you just have to have? Picnic tables are available towards the center of the main drag.

Your faithful companion in the hunt for treasures

5. At the very least, bring a backpack. Ideally, bring a wagon or a collapsible push/pull cart. Try to use a cart that has wide wheels which helps with navigating the ruts and puddles that you will inevitably encounter. Plus they are easier to use. Carts are also available for rent.

6. Comfortable shoes are a must as are sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and yes, an umbrella. I have never encountered a day without rain, even if it’s fleeting. I have no idea what kind of microclimate the town is located in but it has the strangest weather patterns! Or it could just be my kind of luck.

7. Parking – I’ve tried parking halfway up the main drag so I can wander the vendor fields in both directions. However, the process to try to head home later becomes more annoying to me than it is worth. You end up parking way in the back, the field is muddy and you’re filthy before you begin, then there is the stand-still traffic leading out. My go-to spot is the church field, on the right at the beginning of the fair. It’s $10 for all-day parking. If you have a truck, you get front row access to the exit (which is done by simply lifting the yellow rope and driving right underneath). And there is no traffic to contend with.

8. The fair contains a series of “fields”. Some charge admission ($5), some are open on only certain days, and some feel more like a yard sale than an antique fair. In my opinion, the left side of the Fair has more of that yard sale feel, although there are treasures to be found so don’t skip that section!

9. If you find something you love, buy it. Yes, you may find it somewhere else with another vendor for a few dollars cheaper. But if you don’t, you will encounter the joy of trying to remember where the booth was that you first saw it and most likely if you liked it, so did someone else and it’s probably gone. If you do want to take your chances and try to find the perfect item cheaper somewhere else, be sure to note where you saw the original item, just in case.

10. Always note where your purchase is – don’t even try to rely on memory! Grab the vendor’s business card (and cell phone) and write down the name of the field, aisle, and booth location.

A jumble of antiques ~ Courtesy image

11. You can purchase large items and then leave them at the vendor booth to pick up later. There are porters who can bring your finds to your car, or towards the end of the day you can drive up to the vendor to load up your car. The hard part of picking up your item (instead of hauling it back to the car) is that you will need to sit in the gridlock of traffic on the main drag to get to (and from) the vendor field. Then you’ll have to navigate the mass of shoppers on the dirt roads in the vendor fields. You’ll encounter a shopper who loves to play chicken with your vehicle. He’s on his cellphone and can’t hear you approaching, so you inch along until they wander towards some shiny object off to the side. Or they pretend they don’t see you. Or they do hear and see you but don’t seem to care.

12. There are portable bathrooms everywhere. They have terrific water stations with soap to wash your hands so you will leave feeling somewhat clean. The trick is finding a clean bathroom. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a clean one at the back of a field, or hidden behind some trees. The ones that are out in the open and easy to find are often discovered by the men who have been dragged to the Fair by their wives. Enough said.

13. You will notice as you drive on Route 20 that there are quite a few antique shops. If you have energy and money at the end of your day, these are lots of fun to stop at as well.

For more general information: Hope you find exactly what you are looking for, and some things you didn’t know you were looking for. Happy bargaining!

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