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Flea market tips

If you like thrift stores and garage sales, flea markets are for you .The origin of the term flea market is unknown, but they have been around for centuries and exist world-wide. Flea markets rent space to vendors who sell or barter primarily secondhand goods and antiques but also inexpensive or overstock goods as well.

Hennepin County is home to the Hamel Lions Flea Market at the Medina Entertainment Center in Medina, on Hwy 55. It’s open most Sundays, May through September. I brought along my friend who has visited several other flea markets, and her first question was—is it a tube sock or an antiques flea market?  She’d been to some bad ones. The Hamel Lions Flea Market touts 200 or so vendors and for the most part, not of the overstock-tube-sock-selling variety. Yes, we did see a vendor selling off brand laundry detergent and air freshener products, and even a vendor selling LuLaRoe  (a clothing line only available through independent consultants), but the majority were selling used or repurposed items from decades past.

For us Gen Xers, it was table after table of nostalgia-evoking treasures: a "Dark Crystal" movie-themed lunchbox, an unopened "Annie" movie plastic jewelry set, the "Charlie's Angels" board game, a Snoopy blow dryer (who knew it even existed!), Colorforms, Smurf figurines, Star Wars drinking glasses—even a bag of Barbie wigs—the vendors and treasures stretched on and on. And it wasn’t just relics of the '70s and '80s—there were antlers, old items repurposed into lamps, cameras from the '50s and' 60s, tools, dishes— a bit of nostalgia, as well as practicality, for all ages.

To get the good stuff you have to get there early. What we were looking at was only about half of what the vendors started the day out with. Considering we thought there was an abundance of great items still there 2 hours before the market shut down, we had to wonder what was there at the start of the day. Which, according to the vendor we talked to, started as early as the vendors arrived, in some cases 3 a.m., with shoppers equipped with flash lights. I’m not that dedicated, but there is a motel right next to the flea market site for those that are and don’t want to drive out to Medina that early.

While I somehow managed to walk away without the Snoopy hair dryer, I did end up leaving with an $8 stool with chrome legs and a red vinyl seat. A nice addition to my midcentury kitchen table and chairs and the original label on the underside lists its manufacturer as located a few blocks from my previous residence in Chicago. I do intend to go back to the flea market, likely not a 3 a.m .trip but I may try next time to get there closer to 6 a.m., when the vendors are still flush with goods and flashlights aren’t necessary. All in all it’s a great flea market in the heart of Hennepin County. If you have yet to visit a flea market, this one won’t disappoint. I do recommend a hat and sun glasses if it’s a sunny day, as the market is located in an open parking lot. Unless of course you go before dawn.    

For additional details on the Hamel Lions Flea Market visit https://www.hamellions.org/flea-market

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