Treasure Hunting at the Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market

My niece Anne and I spent today at the Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market, an enormous outdoor fair that takes place twice each year in the tiny rural community of Highland, Kansas.    This is a market that draws thousands of hopeful treasure hunters from across the region—which is evident by 9:00 in the morning as shoppers, out of necessity, become rather inventive in securing space to park their cars.  I actually have a funny story about parking at Sparks:  at the spring fair people were wedging their cars along the side of the two lane road outside, causing a bottleneck, which drew the ire of the sheriff.   People were warned by the fair owner, via bullhorn and in progressively harsh language, to move their cars or risk arrest.  

Announcements via bullhorn are part of the Sparks experience.  Perhaps the most comical bullhorn incident was when the owner called for everyone’s attention:  “Sellers, guard your wares!  Sellers, guard your wares! There is a thief on the premises!  Guard your wares!”  He took a quick breath, then addressed the thief directly.  “Thief, we will find you!  We are on the lookout, and when we catch you the sheriff is only minutes away.  Be warned!”  I don’t know if they ever did catch that thief, but if anyone else was considering a discrete snatch, I suspect they changed their mind.

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
Creative parking configurations at Sparks. It’s difficult to make out in this picture, but there are cars as far as the eye can see. This is only a fraction of the cars parked at the fair.

Anne and I got there shortly after the fair opened at 8:00, and the aroma of kettle corn and funnel cakes was already riding the air.   When you first arrive, it’s hard to know where to start.  This is a big fair, and there are piles of stuff everywhere.   It’s a flea market, so little care is taken by sellers in creating attractive displays.  Rusty old junk (“mantiques”) sit next to elegant crystal, brand new socks next to mid-century hankies.  The vast majority of items held little interest for me and Anne, but that didn’t matter; it’s the search for diamonds in the rough that makes this kind of fair so much fun.   You literally have to pick through things one at a time in order to unearth something spectacular.   You must know, going in, though, that the hunt requires both stamina and comfortable shoes.  Anne and I held up pretty well in terms of stamina (although we did need to sit a spell to regain our strength!), but poor Anne was wearing a pair of sandals that caused a blister.  Next time it’s Sketchers and tennis shoes for us!

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
Pumpkins and Americana. A pretty scene at the fair, suggestive of fall. Problem: I’m not ready to say goodbye to summer!

Both Anne and I brought home a find, and I’ll reveal mine below.  What follows are some snapshots of our stops along the way.

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
A pretty, rustic Autumn vignette.
Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
One of the ramshackle old buildings within the fair. I love it! That’s Anne checking out the bargain table.
Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
A fantastic door. Too bad it’s painted. This must have been a stunner in its original condition.
Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
A pile of stuff. You could literally spend all three days of the fair picking through everything for sale there.

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
This is a re-imagined vintage jewel box. Anne spotted this first. She’s very fond of boxes both large and small.
Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
This is Anne admiring a pretty little birthstone ring that she ultimately bought for one dollar. Incidentally, I took a picture of her ring, but it was all blurry, so I decided not to post. It was a cute little find, though.

I’ve mentioned in other posts how lucky I am to have two nieces who will shop with me for antiques!  Both Anne and her sister Mary are developing a sharp eye for classic pieces.  There were several instances today in which Anne and I would gasp at the same time and reach for the same item as we scanned tables piled high with merchandise.   For example, at a table literally spilling over with broken jewelry, scarves, and other accessories, we both spotted a great little rhinestone encrusted calling card case at exactly the same moment.  We wasted no time in clearing the area to get a better look.  We didn’t bring it home, but we both loved it.  What we really fell for, though, was a fabulous little compact that we found in a case within Krazy Ray’s Bargain Barn at the fair.   It was stunning, but too expensive, so we ultimately walked away—with our heads hanging low.  One of the things that interested Anne was the negotiating aspect of shopping the fair.  She called it “wagering,” and on our way there she said she wanted to try it, but only after watching me do it first.

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market
Pieces in a jewelry stall. Check out the butterfly pin; This is similar to a green pin my niece Mary purchased in Omaha earlier this summer. I have featured her version in another blog post and elsewhere on the Circa19xx.com website.

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market

After several hours of treasure-hunting, we were all shopped out—and starving.  We headed out of town to Elwood, Kansas, where we stopped at El Canelo for a very satisfying meal.  As we ate, we talked about my blog post, and she asked that I feature the restaurant, since she liked it so much.  So, here’s a snapshot…

Elwood, Kansas

OK, so now for the big reveal.  After having looked at probably thousands of items today, I made one small purchase.  Here it is…

Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market

Another visit to the Sparks Antiques and Collectibles Flea Market is in the scrapbook.   I was  reminded by the many pumpkins that had been on display that the season will soon turn, and I’ll begin cocooning for the winter.  I’ll count on the memories of a day like today—when the sun is warm, the mood is light, and the company is fun and easy—to sustain me when the days are cold and the nights are long.  Sigh.  If only summer was forever!

Have a great holiday weekend, everybody!  By the way, the drawing for the 1928 compact (see sidebar) will take place on Monday.  There’s still time to enter:  Just follow me on Instagram (I’m running really low on Instagram followers!), like the Circa 19xx Facebook page, make a comment on any post on this website, or subscribe to my blog.  Thanks for playing, and also for reading my blog.  

Until next time…

Jennifer Passariello

One Comment

  1. I LOVE the Sparks flea market! It truly is like a scavenger hunt, so fun! The necklace you found is beautiful and so are the sweet moments you and Anne were able to share on your trip.

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