New Gig

Olde English Flea Market

Photo: Julia Ozab

My first article for MyEugene on the Olde English Flea Market:

Old England meets odd Eugene at the Olde English Flea Market

BY DAVID OZAB ON JUNE 13, 2011

Eugene Flea Market held Sundays, 9 am-4 pm, through August

Seven o’clock on Sunday morning. An empty lot. Cars begin arriving one by one, slowly lining up aside a row of trees. Car trunks pop open. People pull out tables and unpack boxes filled with trinkets, knick-knacks, and collectables.

An hour passes, and more cars arrive. A second row of tables lines up alongside the first. A lady makes tea and scones, while her husband greets vendors, collecting payments and directing each one to an assigned spot. He looks up at the grey sky and hopes the rain will hold off until the evening. More cars enter. A third row of tables, and then a fourth assemble as another hour passes. Everyone’s ready. The event begins as customers file in.

This could be any one of a countless number of English “car boot sales” (boot being the English word for trunk) that Graham Timmins remembers from his native Manchester. But this parking lot is six thousand miles away from Manchester, in Eugene Oregon, and Graham and his American-born wife Zeeta aren’t customers—they’re the proprietors of The Olde English Flea Market, open every Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through August.

“We’re trying to make it really, really fun,” says Zeeta, “and bring a little bit of ‘English’ to Eugene.”

Of course, the cultural exchange goes both ways as evidenced by some of the more unique vendors.

mannequin heads

Photo: Julia Ozab

“It’s the one place you can get a head without it costing you an arm and a leg,” says Alex Conrady of Mannequin Head Recycling Project who launches into his sales pitch alongside two rows of creatively decorated mannequin heads—everything from aliens to vampires to Cruella DeVil. “We recycle them through cosmetology schools and they get scholarships in exchange . . . Some of the heads we designed ourselves and some of them, like Cruella up there, were done by students.”

The display is both ecological and unnerving—the perfect Eugene combination.

Recycled can airplanes

Photo: Julia Ozab

More recycling is in evidence at Bob’s Novelty Planes stand. A former pilot himself, Bob Sigler has been fashioning replica biplanes out of old beer and soda cans for over forty years. “I’ve sold, probably, thirty thousand of these. I ship them all over the world.” He lists his customers: “bars, Mexican restaurants . . . these with the Coke and Pepsi are for the kids.” It’s a colorful, eye-catching display that keeps Bob busy chatting with customers.

Meanwhile, a balloon artist walks up and down the rows plying his trade. First he makes a bee and hands it to a customer. “Now we’re gonna do charades,” he tells her. He blows up a small red balloon and pulls the end through the middle, making a short stem. “What does that look like?”

“An apple.”

“OK, and this is a bee, right? As I put them up say what they are.”

“Apple . . . bee . . . apple . . .bee . . . Applebee’s.”

Laughter.

Heaven Bound Creations

Photo: Julia Ozab

Down the aisle from the balloon artist, a row of adorable stuffed animals sit inside balloons of their own, each topped by a decorative bow. Lorie Perkins runs the Heaven Bound Creations (which is sponsored by Joker Face Entertainment) stand, with all the proceeds going to find a cure for cancer.

“I just lost my husband to cancer and I made a promise to him that I would continue supporting the cause.” She started selling the balloons three months ago in “little places that are up-and-coming.” Next weekend, she’ll set up her table outside the Wal-Mart on West 11th, and at the end of July, she’ll be part of Heaven Bound Creations’ Relay for Life team.

She has big hopes for the Relay this year: “I’m trying to beat the record and get a hundred walkers.”

Not everything at the market is as attention-getting as the mannequin heads or the beer-can biplanes, or as inspiring as Heaven Bound Creations, but the wide variety of items promises something special for every shopper: Jewelry, wood crafts, books, board games, clothes, metal ware—anything you’d find at a flea market or a garage sale you’ll find here.

Admission is free to shoppers—$25 to $35 for sellers—and according to Zeeta, next week’s entertainment will include “a belly dancer with a lizard on her shoulder.”

The Olde English Flea Market will be held every Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through August.The event is located in the parking lot of the Eugene Masonic Lodge, 2777 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, across from PK Park.

Zeeta will be serving tea and scones at the information booth starting at 10 a.m. until they run out.

For more information visit the event website.

UPDATE: MyEugene.org ceased operations in May, 2012. The site is down and currently for sale. I have reposted my complete articles on this site.  (11/6/2012)

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