The Nashville Flea Market

IMG_4841Howdy y’all! I’m in Nashville, Tennessee! We came to town for a wedding and a conference, and with a week in-between the two events we decided to rent a place and live like the locals. It’s been great! The weather is hot, the people are friendly, and the boots are cowboy. As part of my work I’ve been checking out the local antique and vintage scene. I thought I’d share my experiences this week as I tour Music City, USA.

My first adventure was at the HUGE Nashville Flea Market. Held at the Tennessee state fairgrounds, this sale has been voted best flea market in the state, and considered one of the top ten in the Southern US. I can believe it. The market is usually held on the fourth Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of each month, although it sometimes shifts for holidays. You can find all the dates and information on the Fairgrounds website.

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I saw an ad for the flea market in a tourist map and, having a Sunday free, my husband and I thought we might check it out for a few hours. Oh silly Canadians. This is not a place you casually “pop into” for a quick look. This is building after building after shed after outdoor aisle full of stuff. You could go every day of the weekend and not see everything. The market, after all, boasts over 1,200 sellers!

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Most of the antique and vintage booths were outside, which coincidentally was SCORCHING HOT and reminded me of last year’s trip to Antique World. There’s something about the hottest day of the summer that makes me want to walk around for hours I guess. Although we didn’t realize it until the end, the highest concentration of antique and vintage dealers were in an outdoor section marked “Antique Alley” , as well as the nearby “sheds” (which are actually repurposed animal stalls).

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One thing I find interesting is seeing how the general selection of antiques changes to reflect the history of each place I visit. At the flea market I noticed a lot of advertising for local Nashville businesses and classic US brands. Vintage furniture was more abundant than I’ve seen in Canada. There were antique toys, cowboy hats and boots, civil war memorabilia, and collectibles relating to country music. I didn’t see a lot of paper artwork or antique clothing but I did see a few sellers of cow hide. One seller explained that it’s very difficult to find antique and vintage textiles from the area, as the heat and humidity often damages these pieces over time.

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There was a lot of inexpensive vintage costume jewellery. Perfect for crafty types to restore or reuse!

Of course, the antiques and vintage were just part of the flea market. There were also buildings (sweet, air conditioned buildings!) with new “as seen on TV” type products, 1980s toys, home decor, and just plain junk. There were definitely trends in the reproductions for sale – lots of rusty licence plates, American flags and hand painted “RC Cola” tin signs. And classic flea market stuff? Oh my. If you wanted cheap fashion accessories, jumbo packs of socks or slightly expired toiletries than this was the jackpot.

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One giant box was nothing but gum in weird, probably discontinued flavours. I was strangely tempted.

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If you decide to visit the Nashville flea market, I have a few words of advice. Number one, wear comfortable shoes. Most of the “sheds” and outdoor spaces are on uneven dirt. You will probably stumble. Also, there isn’t a lot of seating. Food options are a few trucks and one restaurant that sells fried foods at decent prices, and cold beer to boot. If it’s summer, wear a hat and carry water. Parking costs $5 and there is no admission charge.

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One of the “sheds”. There were 4 or 5 of them filled with booths.

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In the end we did buy a few small items to take home, but I will cover them in a bit more detail later. I’m very happy to have had the Nashville flea market experience, and I would definitely recommend it. It was a great introduction to what I hope the area has to offer!

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