High Falls Flea Market returns every Sunday through October

Joni Barr has been the manager of the High Falls Flea Market for the past 14 years. She is pictured here with her daughter Collyn. (Photos by Lauren Thomas)

Alexis Nigro and Ovi Horta scope out some vintage Pyrex at the High Falls Flea Market last weekend.

One of the hamlet of High Falls’ longest-running and most charming seasonal treats is now up and running once again: the High Falls Flea Market. It happens every Sunday, weather permitting, from the second Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October – this year, October 27. On the weekend of High Falls Fair Day, July 13/14, it’s open on Saturday as well.

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If you ever find yourself driving Route 213 between Rosendale and Stone Ridge on a summer Sunday, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the cluster of tables set up just off the road in Grady Park and
been tempted to stop and check out the wares. It’s a tradition that has been going on for 47 years now.

“I think it started in 1972,” says Joni Barr, an antiques dealer who has served as flea market manager for the past 14 years. “It’s a fundraiser for the D & H Canal Historical Society. Winnie Williams was on the board — she ran it for decades — and suggested that they have a flea market to pay off the mortgage on the museum building.” The ongoing event has been a continuous annual funding source for the not-for-profit, which is currently in the process of renovating the recently acquired DePuy Canal House building, future home to the museum’s collections. The roof has already been replaced, and work is in progress on rebuilding the wooden entryway extension on the street side of the former restaurant.

Grady Park, whose GPS address is 109 Main Street, belongs to the Historical Society, so overhead costs for running the market are negligible, and they’re able to keep the price of participating low: only $25 per day for ten-by-ten-foot booth. The small V-shaped park, tucked into the intersection of Route 213 and Old Route 213 right next to the High Falls Post Office, is a historic site worth visiting in itself. “This was the canal right here,” says Barr, pointing to the ground at our feet. “There’s a lock down at the end; you can still see the stone ruins. When they rerouted the road back in the 1950s, they filled in the canal.” The Five Locks Walk is a short stroll away, its entrance alongside the Canal House, and a trail right across 213 leads to a view of the remains of an aqueduct built by Brooklyn Bridge engineer John A. Roebling.

The High Falls Flea Market is open every Sunday through October.

The flea market itself is “known for vintage items,” according to Barr. “We have no brand-new socks or sunglasses here. They don’t do well…I encourage people with food, flowers or plants to sell. It’s nice to have that variety.” Jewelry and vintage clothing are typically on offer, as well as housewares, small pieces of furniture and art. Last weekend the jewelry selection included hard-to-find items like cufflinks, plus cameos both in and out of settings. There were framed maps and old movie posters, “Mid-Century Modern” home furnishings (very trendy with Millennials), an antique trombone, an early-20th-century office paper cutter, an ornate silver sheath for a South American gaucho knife.

Some of the most intriguing pieces for sale were to be found in Barr’s own booth, including curious “patent medicine” items from the 19th century. “We had a ‘quack box’ last week. It would give you a shock when women would be ‘hysterical,’” she reports. A retired habilitation specialist who worked with for many years at the Wassaic Developmental Center, Barr says, “As a second job, I’ve been buying and selling antiques since around 1976. I bought my first antique when I was around 19 years old.” In recent years her specialty has been antique dolls; her new shop, Celestial Dolls, is due to open in Saugerties this summer.

While the flea market draws a “mixed crowd,” including “a lot of City people” up for the weekend, many customers have been coming every Sunday for years to see what old things are new. “We’re waiting here the night before for them to open,” jokes one regular, Larry Silver of Stone Ridge. “I always try to stop by. I collect old toys.” At Barr’s booth, no toys are on display this week, but a broken wooden cigar box topped by a vintage Buster Brown advertising logo proves irresistible to Silver at the price of one dollar.

A selection of antique bottles from the collection of Bill Clarke at the High Falls Flea market.

Many of the vendors are also regulars. “It varies. We have a set group of people who’ve been coming for years, but there’s also a nice selection of people who are cleaning out Grandma’s house or cleaning out a barn.” Estate sales are a prime source for the items Barr has on display as well.

Last weekend’s market was rescheduled to Saturday after a string of rainy Sundays, but this is a highly unusual occurrence. The vendors are eager to get out there, even if the weather isn’t optimal. “We make the call that morning. If it’s teeming rain, we cancel,” Barr says. For updates, visit www.facebook.com/pages/category/Shopping—Retail/High-Falls-Flea-Market-185040514978344. If you’re interested in becoming a vendor, instructions and a downloadable form can be found at www.canalmuseum.org/sunday-flea-market2.

Market hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on-street parking is available and there’s no cost to come by and browse. But don’t expect to walk away without some affordable antique trinket you never knew you needed, just calling your name.

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