Brimfield Antiques Show

by Elise Hansen

Three times a year, over 130,000 people swarm the fields inside Brimfield, Massachusetts, for the world-famous Brimfield Antique Show. The show is one of, if not the largest outdoor antiques show in the world; around 6,000 vendors and 130,000+ visitors will pack into a maze-like configuration that stretches a full mile along the US 20 Highway.

Everyone is here, from flea market browsers to designers for big-name buyers like Ralph Lauren, and they’re on the hunt for inspiration and perhaps the bargain of a lifetime. There’s something for everyone at Brimfield: past shows have featured vintage jewelry, phonographs, carousel horses, jadeite glass collections, antique furniture, Chippendale settees and Eames chairs.

Treasures at Dealers’ Choice in Brimfield: pair bagués crystal sconces

Caroline Faison’s Brimfield finds, ready to be cleaned, restored and sold

The Brimfield Experience

The giant Americana market takes place three times each year, in May, July and September. This year’s September show runs from Sept. 5-10. Although it’s called the Brimfield Antiques Show, it’s actually a series of shows: each show sets its own hours, creating staggered start and end times. And despite the abundance of wares, many of the shows are so popular they wrap up within a few hours. Other vendors will stay open the entire week.

Beautiful collection of 18th Century Delft pottery during early shopping session yesterday at Central Park

A wonderful 18th Century French Buffet Heading back to North Carolina with Caroline Faison

This is primarily a show for buyers, made up of a plethora of antique dealers looking for new inventory for their shops and interior design clients. Kevin Perry, an antiques dealer who specializes in fine and decorative furnishings, spoke with Dalton Bain about his plans for the show.

Q&A with Kevin Perry

How long have you been shopping at Brimfield?

I’ve been going to Brimfield for 15 years now. I only go as a buyer.

How would you describe the experience?

I’d say it’s fun to go to. It’s maybe not for the hard core as much as it is for the people who really enjoy being there. They get a lot of people coming through. There are a lot of metro-type people from Boston and from New York, but there are people from all over the U.S. who come. You get people from overseas, too; there are a lot of Chinese buyers looking for ceramics. Brimfield is similar to European fairs in a lot of ways, although there are a lot more Americana items [at Brimfield].

A lot of the shows are “unedited” there’ll be good stuff mixed in with the junk. Which means that buyers come through and “edit” for themselves. You have to find the good things yourself, which is kind of fun. It’s not a corporate [feeling] show. I’d call it grungy in some ways. There are a lot of younger people looking for midcentury pieces. They’re pioneers, in a sense. They’re looking for industrial and salvaged things. There’s also a lot of textiles and clothing.

What’s your favorite show to buy from? What are some other popular ones?

Heart-O-The Mart is good. J and J’s is the oldest. May’s is popular, and Dealers Choice, New England Motel and Hertan’s. Some shows are named after the original owners. They all start on different days and times so you can go to all of them.

Kevin and Michael of Kevin L Perry Antiques

Have you ever seen any VIP or “celebrity” shoppers?

You probably won’t see any celebrities there, but you do get buyers for Ralph Lauren and others like that. You’ll also find scouts for places like Restoration Hardware.

Where do you usually stay?

We stay in the Sturbridge, which is the closest town over from Brimfield. We stay at the Publick House Historic Inn. It’s not the most upscale place, but it’s become a bit of a tradition with us to stay there.

How do you transport stuff?

We bring a big van and we try to fill it up. Quite a few folks also have containers shipped in

Where do you park?

We buy passes to park the van directly on field. It’s expensive but it’s worth it. But there’s people there who will ship things for you, too.

Where do you eat?

The food options are like what you’d find at a carnival. Although there is an Italian restaurant, Francesca’s, that’s pretty good. It’s like your classic Northeast Italian restaurant.

What are your tips for someone who may be going for the first time?

The weather is really important. It can be cold, it can be hot, it can rain. The rain can get really chilly, especially in [the] spring [show].

It’s also a huge undertaking; you can totally wear yourself out just in the first day. You have to pace yourself in order to make it to the second and third days.

If you had to sum up the Brimfield experience in 5 words….

You can find amazing things.

There’s a huge array of things, but within all the junk you can find some very nice things—some good antiques.

French commode found at Heart-O-The Mart in its final resting place. From muddy field to beautiful home!

Stunning French mirror found by Kevin Perry at Heart-O-The Mart from Kevin Kleinbart.

How to attend

The Brimfield Show homepage has a number of resources to help new and returning visitors alike strategize for their spree. There’s a map to help visitors get oriented. There’s also a database of dealers and the items they plan to exhibit, so if you know what you’re looking for in advance, you can come prepared!

Most of the shows are free, although there are a few with a modest cover charge (about $5 to $6). The main thing is to get there early! Some of the best shows sell out fast.

Happy Brimfielding!

Kenny Ball, Caroline Faison, Kevin Perry, Chloe Ball and Chris Ball at Heart-O-The Mart in the continental tent