Not the same old stuff at Elkhorn Antique Flea Market
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A lineup of nutcrackers was part of the items for sale at the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market May 20 at the Walworth County Fairgrounds. Paul Plevak photo.
ELKHORN -- A meat cleaver and a bowed handsaw. The mounted heads of a mountain goat and an antelope. An old sewing cabinet, a ship’s wheel and a metal-studded leather gun holster, straight out of a 1950s TV western. Margaret Adams found them all at the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market on the Walworth County Fairgrounds.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
Adams uses the finds as props for Adams Family Memories, the photography studio she and her husband, James, run in downtown Delavan. The two take “old-time” portraits of people in costume using sets in their studio that range from the deck of a pirate’s ship and a 19th-century saloon to a Prohibition-era loading dock ready for a little moonshine-and-mobster action.
For Adams, the cleaver and the handsaw might become the primitive tools of a Civil War surgeon preparing to amputate a limb -- particularly when paired with her latest flea market find in Elkhorn last month: a wooden doctor’s exam table dating back to the early 1900s.
She’s even purchased two metal stills used for making alcohol -- which she says will look good in a photograph of someone striking a gangster’s pose.
Plus, Adams added, “We looked really cool walking through the flea market carrying those stills.”
The Adamses regularly scour rummage sales, Craigslist, auctions, estate sales, even items local homeowners leave on the curb, but they said it’s difficult to match the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market for the sheer variety of unusual finds.
Nona Knapp, owner of NL Promotions, which operates both the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market and the West Bend Antiques Show, held each January at Washington County Fair Park, said 90 percent of the vendors in Elkhorn are antique dealers, and the other 10 percent are collectors of newer items, making for a good selection of merchandise.
“We’ve got furniture, old toys, old kitchen stuff, pottery, glassware and jewelry,” Knapp said. “I think we’re about the only place left around to find all the old stuff.”
Knapp and her late first husband started the flea market in 1982 during what she terms the “heyday of the antique business” when interest in old items was growing. About 50 vendors were at the first flea market, which always has been held at the fairgrounds on Wisconsin Highway 11. Today the number of vendors has grown to more than 500, located in outdoor tables on the grounds or spots inside the fair’s small animal buildings or larger, cement-floored structures.
“Nona worked very hard to build the show up to the high-caliber quality it is because (she and her husband, Skip) scrutinize what comes through the door and they haven’t lowered their standards,” said Therese Kashian, a Milwaukee-area resident who, with her husband, Charlie, have been vendors at the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market for some 20 years -- almost all of that time in the same spot on the northwest side of the fairgrounds.
The two were there for the first of four annual shows in Elkhorn on May 20. Attendance that day was 11,000, according to Knapp, with traffic at one point backed up from the Highway 11 exit of Interstate 43 to the fairgrounds’ entrance.
Kashian wasn’t surprised by the crowds who wended their way through vintage jukeboxes, Schwinn bicycles and boxes of old board games.
“TV programs like ‘American Pickers’ and ‘Antiques Roadshow’ are bringing more people out because they kind of get the ‘bug,’” she said. “They see it on television and become more aware of what they have. And everybody is hoping to find something of high value.”
If you go
-- Remaining shows for the 2012 Elkhorn Antique Flea Market are June 24, Aug. 12 and Sept. 30. The market is held on the Walworth County Fairgrounds, 411 E. Court St., Elkhorn. Admission is $5 per person. Parking is free. Gates open at 7 a.m., and vendors are located both inside and outside buildings on the grounds. For more information about the shows, go online to www.nlpromotionsllc.com.