As my grand parents and I drove to Maxwell Street Days last Sunday, I realized that I had been attending this event for at least 20 years. Considering I have only been on earth for a mere 24, and have spent none of that time being a morning person, it is more than a little remarkable. For as long as I remember, I have enjoyed rising at dawn to roam a dusty gravel field inhabited by a sprawling temporary metropolis of strange characters selling precious, precious junk.
My grandmother started the tradition but later my mother’s antique business cemented the trek to Cedarburg among our family traditions. Although I admit I cannot say with utter confidence that I have gone every year, I do know I have gone more than once in a Summer, which I believe makes up for the occasional predisposition to sleep late and miss the fun.
It was at these cluttered tables that I really began to learn the fruitful art of haggling. Although hardly adept during my early attempts (no doubt to my childhood budget clashing with my childhood taste for expensive collector Barbies) I quickly grew the skills, and more importantly, the confidence. Now it is an ever present habit to offer less than the initial price, knowing that dealers almost always account for some wiggle room. Last Saturday I only accepted the price once without question: fifty cents for a the orange metal box of a vintage science kit, in perfect condition!
And although I was sore when we’d finally passed by the last booth, we managed to squeeze a few local rummage sales into the schedule. But not until after breakfast at the local George Webb’s (the food at that location being much better than the ones in Milwaukee). I spent my entire budget of $20, but my bounty was plentiful. And some of the items will prove to make excellent etsy merchandise, including a colorful pile of vintage earrings.
Most of the earrings came in bulk, neatly bundled into two Ziploc baggies. However the second purchase I made that day (barely even a few yards into the grounds) was a single pair of vintage earrings for 25 cents, and the haggard looking gypsy woman said with a thick accent, “You are my first customer, you better bring me luck.” Call me superstitious, but I was a bit intimidated to wonder, what happens if I don’t! She fit right in among the dirt kissed old men wearing overalls and chain smoking hand rolled cigarettes. Other kinds of sellers have slipped into the spaces between the stereotypical antique dealers. Some people set up huge cardboard boxes filled with cheap new items like sponges, bright plastic clipboards, and masking tape. Not to mention the food vendors, the florists, and the middle aged middle America lady crafters with all manner of handmade kitsch.
And of course I found a few figurines to add to my collection. In addition to my usual habit of buying Virgin Mary and Saint statues, I also picked up an adorable plastic fawn that reminded me of an apartment/studio I saw on the Etsy video series: “There's no place like here.”
The whole day was absolutely exhausting but thank goodness I had two days of labor day vacation to follow it. That much shopping requires a recovery period!