HARVARD — The 47th annual Harvard Flea Market boasts that it’s the largest such event north of Boston.
And with a lineup of 175 vendors for this year’s event on Saturday, it’s easy to see why. The Bromfield School — at 14 Massachusetts Ave. — will again serve as the venue, building off years of success at the multiacre fields and lots.
Flea markets are both popular social events and mercantile opportunism for bargain hunters and savvy dealers. (The name originates from 1860s Paris’ public commercial centers. Used goods were bought and sold, particularly “shabby second-hand clothing that might contain fleas.”
Booths will begin setting up at 7 a.m., and “shoppers and pickers” can browse the half-dozen rows of kiosks and displays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
No matter which side of the transaction you find yourself on, the premise to modern flea markets is that both parties are satisfied with the exchange. The negotiations and haggling enhance the experience, leading to a sense of victory after getting 25 percent off that coveted piece of memorabilia or those hand-made crafts.
Wares from fossils to foods will be for sale, with crowd estimates coming in at more than 3,000. Parking is free, and restrooms are available. Admission to the market is $3 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-12. Proceeds will benefit two local nonprofits groups — The League of Women Voters of Harvard and The Harvard Schools Trust.
For many vendors and shoppers, the annual event is a must-do. Debbie Robichaud of Barre makes the trip every year with her husband.
“I always enjoy shopping for antiques, collectibles and household goods,” Robichaud said. “I’m very excited about seeing some of the new items at this year’s flea market as well.”
The flea market spills over onto the street corners of the small town, where an apple-pie festival runs concurrently on the adjacent Town Common.
An old-fashioned general store fills in the gaps of whatever cannot be found within the flea market’s vast selection of merchandise.
A grassy picnic area, which overlooks Bare Hill Pond, is always a popular break spot from the picking and pricing, where folks can flee the market of aisles for the isles of calm.
For the eager and impatient, an extra $2 will allow for early entry. The $5 early-bird special, which kicks off before the sun wakes up, begins at 7 a.m.
According to a press release by event chairman Steve Finnegan, “It takes more than 50 volunteers to orchestrate the flea market, including our 5 a.m. traffic-control team, gatekeepers, student volunteers, police, EMT and Highway Department. I think we’ve got it down to a science at this point.”
Science? There will likely be aspects of some -ologies and -isms alongside the fleet of flower dealers and face painters. The eclectic mix of people and products is matched only by the diverse choice of menu items. Traditional American dishes, such as burgers and macaronis, will have their enticing aromas competing with the wafting draw of ethnic cuisine.
The event will raise by half the town’s population of 6,400 for the day. Booths for next year are already being planned and will be available for procurement in June.
There will be EMTs on site for emergencies, as well as indoor bathrooms and portables.
Dogs are allowed, provided they are leashed.
Heidi Creighton is not just an organizer for the event, she is also one of its best customers. As a repeat client with a few decades of flea-marketing experience, she has compiled a list of tips for the novice.
* “Wear comfortable shoes,” she stresses foremost. There are six long rows of booths that you will wander down, perhaps several times, and be aware that the grass may be wet with dew.
* “Bring cash.” Many of the small dealers and vendors do not take credit cards (though some do).
* “Bring bags” in which to carry your bounty and booty. Many people bring carts or wagons to tote the scores of scores.
* “Bring an appetite.” An entire row of vendors is dedicated to addressing appetite emergencies.