Spring has sprung, and it's officially the start of flea market season! It goes without saying we're excited about this. Not only are flea markets fun places to score unique home finds, it also happens to be what one of our favorite magazines, Country Living, is all about.
"I've been shopping flea markets all my life," says Country Living Editor-in-Chief Sarah Gray Miller. And, her team of editors is equally "obsessed" with great, affordable finds, fair foods and fun music, she adds. That pretty much explains everything behind the ninth Country Living Fair, which kicks off on April 27 in Austin, Texas. The three-day event, which will be the first of three this year, features antique dealers, craft artisans, live music and more. So, why start things off in Austin? Miller explains the southern city's charming appeal.
"Austin is kind of about everything that Country Living is about," says Miller. "What I love about it is that it's a big city with small town heart, and it's got this great mix of urban excitement and laid-back, authentic, down-home charm."
Not to mention it's a "nexus for the craft movement," she adds. That, coupled with music from country singer Cooper Boone, guest appearances from TV personalities like Planet Green's Brent Ridge and HGTV's Cari Cucksey, plus food stands galore makes the festivities sure to fulfill palettes (and palates) everywhere.
This year, the fair is expected to receive over 15,000 guests with vistors coming from 38 different states. Miller says she's excited to speak with many of them in person. And, of course, the Country Living leader, who has a home basement filled with flea market finds, is ready to shop.
"I can't wait! My husband is actually driving all the way to Austin so that if I see big stuff, we can load it up in the car and he can drive home for me," she adds. But what does a top editor of one of the most established and renowned home magazines look for? Whatever speaks to her, she says. "If I really love it, like my life is going to end if I don't have it and it's completely unusual, I buy it on the spot." Believe it or not, that's only happened twice in Miller's life and one of those rare finds -- a lamp shaped like a lightbulb -- was found at last year's Country Living Fair in Columbus.
To prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed by so many possible "great finds," Miller suggests making a list of items you're looking for before you head out the door. However, veering from the list is definitely possible, she admits. Also, unless you absolutely love something, don't hesitate to leave, think about it and come back. If it's not there anymore, it wasn't meant to be, she says. "You're going to see the same stuff again and again, so don't beat yourself up if you miss something."
Additionally, most vendors expect to bargain, so "never hesitate to ask for a better price," Miller advises. "And, bring cash in small denominations. If they got something priced at $30 ... and you pull out $22 and say, 'Would you take $22 for this? This is what I have.' They're more likely to wheel and deal," she adds.
Check back later to learn more insider flea market shopping tips from Miller and estate-sales expert Cari Cucksey.
Will you be attending the 2012 Austin Country Living Fair? For tickets, visit Stella Shows.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article omitted to mention that this is the ninth time that the Country Living Fair is happening.