I’ve been looking in papers and online to see if this part of Washington has the equivalent of the flea markets I like to visit in South Carolina. So far I’ve struck out. I know they are called “swap meets” on this side of the continent, but I still haven’t found a permanent market like the Anderson Jockey Lot or the Pickens Flea Market. Today I got pretty close. Laura and I visited the annual “World’s Greatest Garage Sale” at the Skagit County Fairgrounds.
The “World’s Greatest Garage Sale” is held twice a year in the fall and spring. It spans two days, Friday and Saturday. I asked Duff which day would be best, and his response was that, like any good yard sale, the best stuff is at the beginning of the sale. Friday morning I got a few chores done around the house and planned to head over soon after its opening. Laura decided she wanted to come along, too, and I’m very glad she did, for reasons I’ll explain later.
We drove through downtown Mount Vernon until we reached the Skagit County Fairgrounds. Last time we were here was a couple of years ago with Duff and Linda for the Skagit County Fair, held in mid-August. After stumbling around a bit we found parking and paid our entrance fee, another difference between this and southern flea markets.
There were a few booths and vendors set up outside, but most were set up in the fairground buildings. This made for an odd configuration. The Skagit Fair is an old-fashioned agricultural fair. The buildings have stalls and cages for animals, so the vendors had to setup in front of and around the stuff that was already there.
As for the the vendors, it had more of a flea market feel than garage sale, as advertised. In our home area there are a few casual sellers, but most seem to have permanent, or at least regular booths and are set up week after week in the same spot. I got that same feeling from the vendors here. They struck me as regular sellers rather than someone hoping to make some cash off of stuff in their garage.
Laura and I walked through all of the buildings looking at the wares. She said that this flea market didn’t make her uncomfortable like the Anderson Jockey Lot does. It did seem quite a bit more wholesome. There wasn’t the undercurrent of near illegality that seems to run through the Jockey Lot, nor was there the overwhelming displays of extremism – Confederacy, right-wing politics, and weird religious crap. I only saw one very subtle display of politics. Most of these just seemed to be antique dealers taking advantage of the venue.
There were a few food vendors set up around a stage area. One long guitarist was butchering a few songs on stage. As we walked through the food vendors the aromas tempted us, but we stayed on our course. There was one vendor advertising “Hawaiian BBQ” and I had to remind myself that in the west “barbecue” is a verb, not a noun. It’s a way of cooking, rather than a cuisine unto itself. (I guess the exception is to reference a grill as a “barbecue.”) That’s one more southern delicacy I’ll probably not find in abundance up here.
The most impressive building on the grounds was the central pavilion. We entered through the side and passed into a large space with bleachers along the sides. Although shaped like a large barn, the building felt more like a cathedral with its tall open spaces. Vendors were set up along aisle in the spaces inside.
While the items for sale were interesting, for the most part nothing reached out to us saying “buy me.” Part of this was that we had a whole house full of items as part of the estate with which to deal. We’re trying to get rid of stuff. We don’t need anything else, antique or otherwise.
There was one exception. Any vendor that had anything music-related caught my eye. The scary thing was that Laura was actually encouraging and helping me. She spotted a clarinet in a case and pointed it out to me. I had to tell her that I’d never really developed an interest in reed instruments. Guitars and accessories such as amps were another matter. We stopped and looked at several. I even looked at a few old violins similar to the one we found in her mom’s house. Not that I wanted to buy another one, but I wanted to get a feel for the value.
We were in our last building, and in the very back of that we found a guy selling lots of guitars and amplifiers.
I met the proprietor, Kelly, and he showed me some nice acoustic guitars. When I had mentioned the “Baby Taylor” and “Mini Martin” guitars to Laura after Wednesday’s guitar session, she took an interest in these smaller guitars as a back-up for my big Martin. She seemed more interested in the smaller folk guitars that Kelly was showing us. I picked up a nice Alvarez guitar very much like the first guitar I ever bought. It had a great tone and excellent action. Kelly started playing some E-minor blues. I picked up another guitar and joined him. We had a full-blown jam session going, and other vendors and visitors were enjoying it.
I chatted with Kelly a bit. He had played in bands a long time ago and most of these guitars and amps were from his personal collection. He also had an old Korg DW6000 and a Yamaha RX drum machine, both of which I own. We had lots in common and seemed to hit it off. As for the Alvarez guitar, Laura said that it had “stories to tell” and told me to buy it. So after haggling with Kelly a bit and getting a case thrown in, I did just that.
Had I been by myself I probably would have just jammed with Kelly and kept going without buying anything. Now I’m very glad Laura was there. I playing most of the afternoon and evening when I got home. The scary thing is that it plays better than my big expensive Martin guitar. And for the curious, the Alvarez is an RF010 Regent Folk model, with mahogany back and sides and a spruce top, probably made sometime around 2009. The case isn’t a great fit, and I may replace it with a padded gig bag at some point, but it will do for now.
Having made a big purchase we left the fairgrounds and headed downtown to look for lunch. I’d used all the cash I had on me for the guitar, so we needed some place inexpensive(ish). We’ve been looking for a non-fast food place to get a good burger at a reasonable price. While we’ve found some good burgers, most will set you back $15. Dining out has been expensive up here. We found a place called the Lunchbox Diner in town. They have a special on Fridays – $6 for a burger and fries. I think we found our place.
Oddly enough, we didn’t order the special. We’d had burgers for lunch the day before, so we filed that bit of information away for our next visit. Instead, Laura got a BLT and I got a Reuben. I think I’d been suffering from sauerkraut deficiency since coming up here.
But our day wasn’t done…
While we were in town we had to run by the grocery store to get anything we might have on our list. This time we also got the makings for a pizza for dinner, so no place will deliver out to the island. But what Laura really wanted while we were in town was pumpkins. There had long been a tradition of putting small pumpkins on the fence posts at the house. One of my first Flickr photos was have just such a thing, taken with an early Nikon S1 point and shoot back in 2005.
Amy had given us strict instructions that we had to put pumpkins on the fence posts this year. Laura found the address for Schuh Farms, so we set off in that directions.
Schuh Farms, just west of Mount Vernon, had fields of pumpkins. Their retail venue had just about any size, shape, and color of pumpkin imaginable.
They also had a large selection of gourds, also in a wide variety of shapes and colors.
They had a smaller selection of vegetables. These were mostly root vegetables, including “ugly” carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic. They also had the largest cabbage heads I think I’ve ever seen.
Laura bought enough small pumpkins for the fence posts, plus a selection of gourds for decorations. We added one small loaf of pumpkin bread, and were still able to escape for under $15.
The pumpkins went on the fence as soon as we got home. We made our pizza, watched a movie, and enjoyed another spectacular sunset on the island. It was a good day.