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10 Tips to Conquer America's Largest Antique Show

05/07/2014 03:59 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2014

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Photo: Berit Baugher

By Berit Baugher for Fathom | America's largest outdoor antique show is back in town from 13-18 May, here's how to do it right.

I caught the Brimfield bug. I can't remember if it came from a design blog, a Pinterest pin, or maybe even an Instagram post. Last spring my digital world was suddenly flush with photos of Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches, walls of vintage suitcases, and tables of antique dishes. The Brimfield Antiques Show was the place to be, and I wanted in.

Brimfield is located in the friendly southern Massachusetts town from which it takes its name, but it's technically a collection of antique shows set up in fields all along Route 20. The show started as an open-air auction in 1959 by a local named Gordon Reid. He still runs it to this day, under the name J&J Promotions. More than 20 independent shows set up around J&J with thousands of antique dealers and collectors from across the country.

My first attempt at attending never got off the ground, but this fall when my friend took the reins, plotted our drive, and booked a hotel room, I was in.

Here are a few tips I learned from my first, and certainly not last, Brimfield visit.

1. The shows run three times a year for six days at a time

September and May are said to be the best because the weather is cool and crisp. Musty antiques and summer humidity don't mix well in July. Serious collectors attend in the beginning of the week, while bargain hunters wait for the weekend's end-of-show sales.

2. Book your hotel room ahead of time

They fill up, and Brimfield only has a few small B&Bs. Most people stay in neighboring Sturbridge. I stayed at Sturbridge Host, which is nice enough in a conference hotel kind of way.

3. Wake up early!

Showtimes vary by day, but sunrise is the frequent start time for serious shoppers. The grounds are less crowded and easier to navigate, and you'll get a better parking spot.

4. Come prepared

Water, sunscreen, snacks, cash, plastic bags, and a warm sweater are musts. You can pick up supplies at Brimfield, but you should think of the experience as a marathon. You won't want to stop once you're on a roll.

5. Suck it up and bring a granny cart

Everyone has one. You'll feel silly at first, but after an hour your shoulders and back will be thanking you.

6. Split up from your friends and get lost

I guess it depends on what kind of shopper you are, but I like wandering at my own pace. Despite the vast number of tables, it's easy to find your friends when you're in need of a quick snack or advice on your next purchase.

7. Listen closely

Longtime attendees love to dole out tips to those around them. I overhead a woman who swore by the advice that a second loop always results in the best finds. You never know what you might have missed your first time around.

8. Food is everywhere

There are tons of stands to choose from. Everyone talks about the famous Pilgrim sandwich (think: Thanksgiving on a roll), but I was most impressed by the apple cider cinnamon sugar donuts from Faddy's.

9. Don't be afraid to haggle

Everything is up for negotiation. The first quote is only a starting point.

10. If you like it, buy it

You probably wont be able to find the booth again. And on the off chance you do, your treasure may be long gone!


SEE THE SLIDESHOW

FIND IT

Route 20

Brimfield, Massachusetts 01010

Berit is an assistant editor at Fathom. You can follower her on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. She travels for sweets and beautiful design.