Flea Market Flipped

                                                                           By Troy Bishopp “The Grass Whisperer”a-busy-october-day-at-new-milford-connecticts-elephant-trunk-flea-market

In this heated political season of negative ads and commentary which dominate the television at every poke of the remote, we’ve been able to find an oasis from the politicians over at the Food Network and on HGTV.  They tantalize our taste-buds or spur us on to create a home project.  These shows even inspire my wife and I to take occasional road trips to find the television star’s favorite finds.  But will the pilgrimage live up to the hype of reality TV?

I remember well the 2 hour wait in the rain at Chef Guy Fieri and the “Triple D” host’s favorite Baltimore diner, The Blue Moon Café in which we gorged ourselves on Captain Crunch French Toast, red velvet pancakes and behemoth homemade cinnamon rolls slathered with icing.  Truth?  Absolutely and pass the Alka-Seltzer! 

Lara Spencer of HGTV’s Flea Market Flip has been coming into our living room every week with a show that pit two teams against each other to upcycle old, obscure items into glamorous articles that someone in New York City will pay way too much for.  The prize for winning such a contest:  five thousand dollars.  It’s nothing to sneeze at, considering they only had a few hundred bucks in things many would call junk.

The scenes of these battle-royals are flea markets around the Northeast where contestants scour booths and tents for treasures they can buy, fix and then flip for a higher sum.  It just so happened that many episodes were filmed at The Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford, Connecticut coincidently near to farmer friends of ours.   It seemed like a good excuse to get away for a fall weekend of leaf-peeping, wine tasting and attending the “set” of one of our favorite shows.  024

The Elephant’s Trunk is touted as being the largest Sunday flea market in the Northeast since 1976.  According to the venue, “Typical Sundays feature over 500 vendors and an ever-changing mixture of food trucks from all over the east coast for the treasure hunters, antique collectors, farmers, foodies, up-cyclers, deal seekers and entrepreneurs”.  Many sellers and buyers arrive before morning milking to get the best spot or harvest the one-of-a-kind pick.  Being a newbie, this experience was shaping up to be a delicious blend of human interest stories and history.

I find out a flea market is a type of bazaar where used goods, high and low quality items, collectibles and antiques are commonly sold.  Upon entering the gate, I could fully appreciate the characterization, as everything including the kitchen sink was on display for sale.  As we perused the booths, wrought iron and old wooden pieces with the right patina caught our eye.  The goal of leaving with some eclectic articles from the “set” were getting ever closer, but only if we practiced the age-old art of price negotiation.the-flea-market-finds-coming-back-home

I must say haggling or bargaining someone out of a few, hard-earned bucks, is quite uncomfortable for me.  In talking with the very kind vendors, the space to showcase their wares to us, so we could haggle them, cost 100 dollars per Sunday. Lara’s show contestants seem to relish wrangling 30 to 50 % off from these people.  I have heard folks make this kind of sale so they can get on TV.  Ah, the price of fame. 

When my wife found her three pronged, iron candle holder, it was time to buy.  The price on the tag was 45 dollars but was quickly muted to 38 from the older gentleman before we could even ask the question, “Would ya take xxx”?  He negotiated himself down!  In a reversal of fortune and a laugh from the vendor, (and why I will never be on Flea Market Flip), I said, “How about 40 bucks?”  With my wife shaking her head in amazement and handing the money over to the man, she commanded that I stay away from making any deals the rest of the day.

The flea market field was a cornucopia of adventure, one booth at a time.  Each item from the past had its own story as did the colorful sellers.  Each find could mean it stayed the same or could be upcycled.  The creative possibilities were infinite.  upcycled-wooden-spools-into-candle-sticks

So when my wife bought two old 8 inch wooden spools for ten bucks from another self-deprecating merchant and said she saw candle holders, I was suspicious.  Upon getting them home and cleaning up their patina, she transformed them into a “tablescape”, that according to google, was worth over 40 dollars.  Now that is a Flea Market Flip contestant if I ever saw one! 

I can’t say it is wise to be a groupie of reality television shows but we have found that by matching them in a tour with our regional awe-inspiring landscapes and local businesses is a fruitful experience.  It provides relaxation opportunities, natural resource appreciation, social stimulation, and economic stimulus.  Looking for an attack ad alternative      invest in a road trip…

Published for Lee Publications