Everything (old) but the kitchen sink

Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market’s annual Extravaganza

By Emma Jarman

For nearly 50 years, the Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market has been delighting shoppers with an eclectic variety of antique, vintage and handmade goods from all around the world at their annual Extravaganza event. In a truly authentic Midwest showing of spirit, the Springfield show takes the typical antique mall experience to the next level.

“It’s probably the largest single-owner show in the country,” says Jon Jenkins, part owner of the Springfield show. “When magazines come out with the 10 best flea markets and best antique shows, there is a group of shows that typically show up on that list and Springfield is one of them. But a lot of the other shows on that list are actually places where there are 10 or 15 smaller shows forming the larger event.”

What started out as a small, family run antique fair has, over the past 47 years, blossomed into a full extravaganza hosting 2,400 vendor spaces, each boasting a unique collection of wares. The current ratio sits around 85:15 antiques and vintage to flea market, but the mix changes a little every year. And though Springfield may seem an unassuming place to host one of the largest antique fairs in the country, it’s a lot more practical than one might think. Located just off Interstate 71, the “small town” actually has about 45 million people within a tank of gas radius. Central Ohio doesn’t seem as population dense, but, well, it is. Add that the fair is hosted at the actual Clarke County Fairgrounds in an area where antiques are clearly part of the culture and you’ve created the recipe for antique show gold. The show is not just limited to local customers, however. Many use well over a tank of gas to shop the flea market.

“We have customers that fly in from Japan to shop. It’s literally an international event,” boasts Jenkins. “There are people who have a ritual about coming to the show–where they stay, where they eat. People are coming saying, ‘Hey I missed one show in 40 years but only because my mom died.’ You hear those kinds of stories. It really is interwoven into the community but it’s even more interwoven into the antiques and vintage community. It’s really a unique special thing.”

A few of the vendors have been around since day one. Bruce Knight, the founder of the show, is still alive and his daughter is an active part of the production. Family businesses line the aisles selling everything and anything you can imagine.

“There are people in there doing really high-end, expensive sales, and there are people there doing garage sales,” says Jenkins. “That’s the beauty of the show, is that there literally is everything.”

Item prices range anywhere from $1 or less to up into the five-figures. Most things are $100 or less. Additionally, there are a few things you won’t find at the Extravaganza: anything that violates trademark protection is not allowed. You won’t find fake handbags or sunglasses at the Springfield Extravaganza. Further general guidelines discourage anything you wouldn’t want your mom to see, or anything the sheriff doesn’t want you selling. But aside from those rules that should go without saying, anything goes.

If the experience of the extravaganza could be summed up anecdotally, Jenkins has the story to beat:

“[It was] one of my first shows I’m driving down one of the aisles in a golf cart. And I slam on the breaks like, ‘Whoa.’ And I saw what looked like to be an 18th century tiger maple bonnet top highboy. Now, you’re more likely to see a leprechaun riding a unicorn than you are you see an 18th century tiger maple bonnet top highboy at a flea market in Ohio. (It’s a really expensive colonial-era piece of furniture). They exist, but they don’t exist in a flea market in Springfield. And I slam on the brakes and I’m looking and I’m like, ‘That can’t be what it looks like it is. That’s impossible.’ So I walk over and I do the things that someone who knows what they’re looking at does. You feel certain things, you pull drawers out you’re looking at it, and everything is kind of passing the sniff test. Like wait a minute, this appears to be what it actually is. And I pick up my cell phone, I ask for the price, this is something that’s probably worth $35,000.” Jenkins phoned a friend who did buy the piece, which needed a significant amount of restorative work, but was well on its way to becoming a $35,000 piece.

“And as I got back in the golf cart and I started to drive away I noticed that the booth right next to it had homemade mustard. [The highboy] was one of the best things that I have stumbled upon and discovered in the years and years and years of doing this. And it was next to a booth of mustard. I bought mustard too.”

As you can see, the Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market Extravaganza has something for everyone. It’s family friendly, pet friendly with leashes, hosts a fine selection of food vendors from around the Midwest, and delights an international audience with the real, Midwest, hometown fairground experience only Springfield can.

“I would challenge somebody to go there and go through the show and not find something that interested them,” dares Jenkins.

The Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market Extravaganza runs Friday-Sunday, May 20-22 at the Clarke County Fairgrounds 4401 S. Charleston Pike in Springfield. The show runs 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 Friday and Saturday and $7 Sunday. Early bird tickets are available Friday morning from 7 a.m. to noon for $15 and include readmission for the rest of the weekend. For more information, please call 937.323.3090.

Reach DCP freelance writer Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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