Return to the Alameda Antiques Fair

I mean, where else can you go thrifting with a view like that?

Although I live in Alameda, I had only been to the famous Antiques Fair at the far end of the island a few times over the past decade. But my daughters have decided that browsing this place is their thing. So I foresee a lot more first Sundays of the month there.

Which is fine with me, even though I don’t usually buy much. I have a lot of fun with the girls just looking at all the rando stuff and seeing what they get excited about. And I did find a few things for myself on this visit. I even got some stuff at my favorite price: free!

Our most recent visit was on July 4, which turned out to be a great day to hit the fair because a lot of other people were clearly busy celebrating the holiday. Last time we hit the market we had to park alongside the road outside the official parking lots, but this time around, when we arrived at about 10 a.m., we were able to park in the lot. I paid the $10 adult entrance fee, cash only (kids are free).

Then we began to talk strategy. Walk all the way to the back of the market, then work our way back to the front? Start at the beginning? In the end, we did what we usually end up doing: First attempted to walk all the way to the back, but got too distracted by things we wanted on the way there, so ended up starting in the middle.

One way to avoid getting overwhelmed at a place like this is to have a mission. Today I had both a regular mission and a reach mission. My regular mission was to buy coasters so people stop putting rings in the dining room table. My reach mission has been the same on every visit to the Antiques Faire: To find a new dining room table, a storage unit for our bathroom and a kitchen stepstool with a seat. But so far, I’ve never had good luck buying furniture here. Maybe it all goes early in the morning — the gates open at 6 a.m. and at that time, admission is $20. I’ve seen a few pieces of furniture here and there, but never what I was looking for and not a great assortment. I did snag a metal typewriter table once, which we use to keep our sewing machine on.

The girls’ mission is always the same: clothes, clothes, clothes. I feel really grateful to be the mom of teens who like a bargain and love vintage fashions. They have a great eye for sizes, which is valuable here because there is nowhere to try things on. Here are the skirts they bought this week:

Pebbles got this 1950s skirt. I made sure the zipper still worked. My 92-year-old grandma recently gave her the scarf.
The skirt Nutmeg found.

As you come to the end of each row of booths, you are confronted with the inviting smells of the food stands. This week they had a lobster booth, which really tempted me, as well as something called Hungarian flatbread, and a stand selling unusual tamales. Some days the lines at these places are crazy long, but this week they were short. Sadly for me, I’ve been falling an intermittent fasting regime lately, so no snacks for me. I did buy a black Americano coffee though, which was … OK.

In between clothing booths, we had fun just wandering and laughing at some of the weird things we saw. One couple was displaying this record:

and when we asked if the musician was Weird Al Yankovic’s dad, they told us that they don’t know but that’s what they always tell people. So I Googled it on the spot for them, and learned that nope, they are not related, but they have collaborated.

I found some coasters that remind me of the ones my great grandma had when I was a kid. She probably kept them right next to her TV trays.

Our other favorite type of booth is where they sell vintage maps and illustrations. I cannot get enough old maps. I literally wish I had more walls so I’d have more surfaces to cover with maps. This is the one I got last time:

But this time, it was the girls who caved to temptation at the map/illustrations booth. Nutmeg bought an illustration of a hand showing all its muscles, as well as a mushroom identification page, and Pebbles bought a sheet of butterfly drawings.

As we made our way to the back, and the fog burned off and I realized I’d forgotten sunscreen, I began to get tired. But not the girls. There were so many clothing booths. Way at the back, there is a large booth where everything is $6. They combed through that one for a long time. So long that eventually I wandered off to see what else was way at the back, next to the vendor parking lot.

That’s when I found the free record guy. Someone using the booth he’s apparenty paid $155 for to give stuff away. Well, how could I resist? We have a record player we found on the curb a few years ago, and I like to pick up records to play on it, especially if they’re cheap. You can’t get cheaper than free.

Joni Mitchell!

I don’t know how they play yet because I need to get some speakers for the record player (the remodel destroyed the ancient built-in speakers we used to have). But I’ll let you know!

Not only did I have quality time with my kids, and pick up a few items that I like, I also got 7,000 steps in at the Antiques Fair, which I really appreciated later when I was spending the holiday afternoon drinking beer and eating sausages.

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