Yesterday on Of A Kind, jewelry designer Tini Bloom offered some excellent tips for preparing for Brimfield, the largest outdoor antiques shows in the country. The next one is coming up fast (May 13-18), so it's already time to start planning, especially if you're making an overnight trip out of it! To her awesome list, I would add:
Make a list in advance of key pieces you're looking to buy. Even if you've committed a list to memory, once you arrive, you're blindsided by the sheer size of the place (there are 6,000 dealers spread out over a mile of land), and no matter how many times you've walked the show, it can be utterly overwhelming.
Arrive early in the day and week. The show runs Tuesday through Sunday, so naturally, the throngs arrive on Friday for the weekend. This is a mistake, as the best stuff is snatched up earlier in the week. And earlier in the day! (Plus if you arrive early in the day, you beat traffic into the show.) The best thing to do is to skip the first day (Tues) since that's when people are still setting up, and to plan on Weds-Fri. Obviously this is difficult to swing if you have a full time job, but if you have vacation time to spare, it's definitely worth it.
You'll need a wagon or laundry cart with trusty wheels. There's no way you'll fit everything in a tote bag, plus whatever you buy, you'll have to lug it around with you for hours until you're near your car.
Unless it fits in your car, it's not coming home with you. It's rare to find a shop that delivers. Last year I found my dream dresser, but my husband gently reminded me that I had already bought two chairs and only had a CRV. See above pic.
Cell phone service is spotty and you might lose your friends. And your battery will drain. If you're traveling with a friend, it's very easy to get separated. Plan a time and a place to meet up. Also, bring a backup battery for your phone. I love these.
Check the weather. Then check it again. If there's even a remote chance for rain, bring an umbrella and wear comfortable shoes that can handle a little mud. Brimfield dealers are set up on grass.
Bring plenty of water and snacks. Yes, the food at Brimfield is awesome, but it's a long day on your feet and you'll need plenty of fuel.
Be decisive. This is so hard to do when you're simply unsure of an item's value or if you really love it enough, but generally it's best to go with your gut. If you're practically melting down over how much you love an item, then commit. If you don't buy it, you'll be obsessing about it forever, at least until you (may or may not) find it years later on eBay or at another show or antique store. But it'll be quite a hunt because generally, what you're drawn to at Brimfield, is an item's uniqueness, not its mass appeal.
Pick an amount of money you're comfortable spending in advance, then double it and that's what you'll really spend. Make sure you're comfortable with that amount. Trust me! The only way I could control myself last time was that I took out X number of dollars from the ATM and once I had spent that amount, it was time to get outta there!
Bring lots of cash and bargain, bargain, bargain! You'll need cash for food, parking (approx $10), and to get into some portions of the show (approx $5). Some booths take credit card but they'll be less likely to bargain with you if you're paying with plastic. And they expect you to bargain, so give it your best shot! But be nice...