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Shenandoah Antiques Expo

January 14th, 2009

Fishersville, Virginia

by Walter C. Newman

This “wall of Griswold” was found in the booth of Mary Anne’s Antiques & Things, Covington, Virginia. The popular cast-iron pieces ranged in date from 1880 to 1950
and in price from $25 for a small newer skillet to $300 for a #12 skillet with its original lid.

Cole Antiques, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, set the corner table at the outside corner of the booth and priced it at $695. It displayed a nicely formed gallery and is raised on turned legs. The child’s chair under the table was tagged $210; the antique child’s shoe was $65; and the miniature tapered wooden box was $185. The box on the table is a folk art casket containing a hand-carved skeleton, its lid decorated with a less bony figure. It was priced at $185.

Don Lazeski of Lewiston, New York, set up his booth in the sheep barn on the Expoland grounds. Among his offerings were a child-size tramp art dresser, complete with glove boxes and mirror, painted silver, for $545; a small four-drawer chest, $225; a shoe store stool, $30; a round pantry box, $55; a wallpaper-covered wooden document box, $175; a folk art decorated picture frame, $95; and a reverse-painted glass-top game board with built-in storage for game pieces, $595.

The Augusta Expoland sits on a small hill just off Interstate 81 between Waynesboro and Staunton, in Fishersville, Virginia. During the weekend of October 10-12, 2008, that little hill represented something of an economic summit for much of the mid-Atlantic's antiques community. The 43rd edition of the Shenandoah Antiques Expo, commonly known as "Fishersville," occurred on the weekend following the first dramatic week of the recent so-called economic meltdown. Anyone who might have thought that he or she could go to an antiques show and get away from discussion of the economy was sadly mistaken. Literally every dealer whom we visited offered some comment on the uncertainty of the "current state of affairs."

So how did this particular show fare in the face of the well-publicized downturn? By all accounts, the three-day event was a success. As usual, the show had its best day on Friday, when dealers and the general public have equal access to the antiques and collectibles that have been assembled for the event.

Although uncertainty was in the air, most of those whom we spoke with echoed the sentiments of Leechburg, Pennsylvania, dealer Mario Sorisio: "I really didn't know what to expect. You can make a good argument for the economy pushing people in one direction or another. Either 'buy now while you still can,' or hold on to your money…we don't need any more antiques.' I don't know if I am surprised, pleased, or disappointed by [the weekend's turnout]. I was mentally prepared to be disappointed, but I am not. Friday was great, but things have certainly tapered off since then."

Raymond Stokes, co-owner of Heritage Promotions, the company that stages and promotes the Fishersville event, was very upbeat. In an interview following the sale he told M.A.D. that he was "very, very, very pleased with everything…considering what is going on in the economy."

Stokes noted that dealer turnout was better than he had been prepared for. There were very few cancellations, and last-minute drive-up vendors helped even things out. Total dealer participation was off by only five vendors (out of nearly 400 spots) from previous shows. He also stated that the show's gate was stable compared to previous shows. He did confirm the anecdotal observation by dealers that indeed Friday had been the high point for both attendance and sales activity.

Although the sun may not be shining on the country's overall economy, it did, for once, shine on Fishersville. The event has a well-earned reputation for weather-related calamities, but no one could have ordered a better weekend for this edition of the show. There was no wind, no rain, no dust storms, no freezing or blistering temperatures. It was simply a delightful early fall weekend in the Virginia countryside.

Economic concerns notwithstanding, the future for the Fishersville show appears to be positive. Dealers and buyers alike seemed upbeat and loyal. Stokes noted that the admission charge for the weekend has remained unchanged for 43 consecutive shows ($10 on Friday and $5 on Saturday or Sunday). "People see our show as a consistent value. That is especially true when times get tight."

Dealer participation has remained stable, and the prospects for adding additional participants are positive. It may be spring before anyone knows the long-term direction of the economy. Perhaps the 44th edition of the Fishersville show on May 1-3 will prove to be a good indicator of what is truly to come.

For more information, contact Heritage Promotions at (434) 847-8242 or visit (www.heritagepromotions.net).


Originally published in the January 2009 issue of Maine Antique Digest.

(c) 2008 Maine Antique Digest

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