Three times a year – in May, July, and September – the small Massachusetts town of Brimfield transforms into a massive antique fair. Running from Tuesday through Sunday, “Brimfield” is actually an agglomeration of twenty shows that take place in multiple fields and buildings throughout the week. The shows stretch along about a mile of Route 20, a two-lane road that runs through the center of town.
I’ve been to Brimfield many times over the past dozen years. Here is my advice on what to expect and how to have the best shopping experience.
The Brimfield Shows
Most shows open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with opening times staggered. If you’re a serious collector, come early in the week.
Some of the shows open at daybreak, while others are scheduled for late morning or afternoon openings. In addition, some shows are open all six days, or from their opening through Sunday, while others are one or two-day events.
The Brimfieldshow website has a chart showing the opening times of each show-within-the-show and it’s worth checking out so that you can plan your visit. Many of the shows are free but several, including Dealer’s Choice, Acres North, New England Motel, Heart-O-The-Mart, May’s, and J & J, have an admission charge on their opening day.
Expert Tip: For jewelry, my specialty, the paid shows listed above tend to have the strongest selections. Dealer’s Choice and New England Motel are particularly strong for jewelry with many of the jewelry dealers clustered in shed buildings. As is to be expected, prices are often higher with specialty dealers so, depending on where you are in the collecting/dealing “food chain”, you may or may not want to focus on these shows.
On the other hand, better deals are often found in the stalls of the generalist dealers scattered throughout the fields; just be prepared to do a lot of hunting.
What You’ll Find
With thousands of dealers, you’ll pretty much find everything. On my most recent trip, I only found a few pieces of antique jewelry that were attractively price for resale; however I found a lot of good modernist jewelry, some Arts and Crafts jewelry, and one fabulous piece of Art Deco jewelry. I was visiting with a friend who collects textiles, and she was very pleased with her Brimfield textile finds.
Vintage Fashion Show and Auction
The Sturbridge Vintage Fashion and Textile Show takes place in the neighboring town of Sturbridge on Monday, the day before Brimfield opens. This is an excellent show if vintage clothing and textiles is one of your interests.
Making Sturbridge an even bigger Mecca for vintage clothing and textiles, Augusta Auctions – the premier U.S. auction house specializing in clothing and textiles – holds an auction on Tuesday and Wednesday nights of the May show.
I’ve been to the May show many times and each time the weather has been different, from cold and rainy to warm and lovely, so be prepared with layers. If it’s rained during the show, or right before it, some of the fields can be muddy, so wear comfortable shoes or boots that can be worn in mucky conditions. I’ve been to the July show once and it was hot, very hot; as someone who is not a fan of hot weather, I try to visit in the spring.
Open space in Brimfield that isn’t being occupied by an antique show is usually being rented out for parking, including people’s front yards, local churches, and businesses.
Expert Tip: park at the end of town closest to where you are staying. Traffic moves slowly along the mile on which the shows are spread, and it’s often quicker and easier to walk back to your car than to drive, especially later in the day when thousands of people are trying to leave at once.