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Back at the Fairgrounds Again

Karla Klein Albertson | February 13th, 2014


David Allan Ramsay and David Woody of Lake Worth, Florida and Cape Porpoise, Maine, backed their space with an appealing set of flower-decorated gates for $3300. The folk art hooked rug winding a path across the floor chronicled the family history of a 1740 Camden, Maine, homestead in museum quality, excellent condition; it was $5600.


Dennis & Dad Antiques, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, has always been a wonderland for collectors of English pottery, whether you favor transferware, pearlware, creamware, or mocha. The large Pratt pitcher at center right with delightful birds and a nest in relief was $995, and the rose-decorated pearlware teapot at left was $895.


Peter and Shirley Pijnappels of Casnovia, Michigan, carry an interesting mix of architecturals and industrials, many discovered on buying trips abroad. The stylish French chrome floor lamps, made in Lyons, were $1295 each.


Canned pork and beans, the food that fueled a nation, has always been a staple of American life. Armour got that right when they called the product “A most relishable dish ready for immediate use.” The classic advertisement was $4500 in the booth of Kim and Mary Kokles of Garland, Texas, who also had a vintage photo of a delivery van for $495.


Ted Fuehr of American Spirit, Shawnee Mission, Kansas, favors furniture in woods with dramatic graining. He had a set of six tiger maple side chairs with caned seats for $3000, which he had placed around a Sheraton drop-leaf table. The penny rug with a strong blue background was $375.


Monty Young of Shelbyville, Tennessee, was sharing a space with Gary Vaughn of Kingston Springs, Tennessee. Young was having a good show. The Williamson County, Tennessee, sugar chest and a cupboard from Abingdon in western Virginia with old dark surface were already tagged “Sold.”


Steve Jenkins of Fishers, Indiana, who founded the Tailgate Antiques Show, is still a presence on the floor, where he enjoys talking to old friends. He had sold a major piece, this formal corner cupboard from Hackensack, New Jersey.


Shannon Vance and Elton Rains of Stash Style, Cleveland, Ohio, are savvy buyers of vintage clothing and know how to sell it as well. They travel with a 1963 Airstream “Overlander” trailer that comes right on the floor, where it provides a visual focal point for their display. The cheerful couple shares their enthusiasm with young buyers searching for a special look.

Tailgate-Music Valley Antiques Show, Nashville, Tennessee

For the annual February run this year, the combined Tailgate-Music Valley Antiques Show moved back to the Nashville Expo Center, also known as the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, after a two-year trial run in Hendersonville. This show is rather like one of those long-running television dramas with a complex plot. Sometimes you have to stream a few past episodes to remember who went where.

Once two distinct shows across the street from Heart of Country, the events moved in together at the fairgrounds in 2008 and began to merge, while hyphenating the original names familiar to customers. Responding to the possible threat that the fairgrounds might close, the united show moved to the Hendersonville Expo Center for 2012 and 2013. While that facility was a lot spiffier, the suburban town lies a bit off the beaten track to the northeast of Nashville.

With the fairgrounds’ future more secure, Tailgate-Music Valley came back to the Nashville Expo Center for a February 13-15, 2014, run. To be sure, the buildings still have that old country fair ambiance, but the location, right off I-65 to the south of downtown and not far from the wealthy suburbs of Brentwood and Franklin, is excellent for local traffic. The site may not be across the street from Heart, but both out-of-town and Nashville customers came on out, and the crowds this year were good.

Indiana show promoter Jon Jenkins sat down in his office in the Creative Arts Building and said, “I’m happy. Our gate was up on Thursday over twenty-five percent from last year when we were at Hendersonville. We never really wanted to leave here. The building in Hendersonville was beautiful—it’s as nice a building as we’ve ever used—but geographically in this market it didn’t work. It was too far away from our target audience, which is older, more sophisticated collectors in Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin.

“We got the people who travel into town from other places for the shows, but we weren’t getting the strong local traffic from our traditional customers. This show is a little bit different and always has been: it’s fifty-five to sixty percent travel in and forty-five percent local. There’s a lot of money in this community.”

Dealers overall seemed pleased with attendance and sales. Tom van Deest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, agreed with Jenkins. “There was good attendance. I think Hendersonville was a great facility, but it was a little hard to find. This is ten minutes away from the other action, but it’s been successful.”

Luan Watkins of Sniktaw Antiques, Gurnee, Illinois, commented on Friday, “I heard it was really crowded over at Heart last night, but we had a really good crowd today and a really good crowd yesterday for the opening. I can’t complain about crowds at all!”

Lookers are great, but the proof, of course, is in the sales that make dealers happy. Jeff Walton of Jenera, Ohio, was able to run down his list of sales on the second day: “[I sold] a floor cloth, a Tennessee pie safe, a Zoar-style Ohio linen press, two rocking horses, burl bowls, a hooked rug—huge numbers, lots of stuff. And everybody sold well across the board here. Good crowd in early buying, and after lunch we had a good crowd of regular buyers, and it was a strong crowd this morning too. The three buildings work well; they’ve got everybody split up. Every single piece of furniture that is in this booth, except for the table and the cupboard, was not in this booth at the start. We’ve reloaded from the van; we’ve had to rearrange three times.”

Tom Delach of Columbus, Ohio, had come with an extensive painting inventory and sold a large group to one dealer. He added, “It seemed like everybody did well.” Longtime exhibitor Cox’s Antique Gallery, Salado, Texas (north of Austin), had the empty spots that signal good sales. Paul Cox commented, “I’ve sold three chests of drawers—four-drawer chests. I sold a sideboard; I sold a big walnut Pennsylvania table…. I’ve sold two major rugs, a nice muted color Serapi and a room-sized Heriz. It’s been a good weekend so far.”

One Hendersonville innovation that has stayed with the show is the distinct Vintage Marketplace section that was set up in the Agricultural Building. Out of about 125 exhibitors in all, 40 to 45 chose to set up in that trendier area. The marketplace featured lively music, a fashion show, and even a wine tasting. Some displays were by show veterans who like the vibe and feel their merchandise is a good fit. Others were set up by young dealers who sell vintage fashion, 20th-century industrials, shabby chic, or repurposed old elements they combine in a new way. The displays flow together, and at times it can be hard to figure out who owns what or even just what the thing you bought might once have been. Customers, many of them in their 20s or 30s, were having fun hunting around.

One of the most successful exhibits was assembled by Shannon Vance and Elton Rains of Stash Style, Cleveland, Ohio, who have established a great system for setting up their vintage clothing displays at events like this. They travel to Nashville or Round Top or a show in San Luis Obispo, California, pulling their 1963 “Overlander” Airstream trailer. At the fairgrounds, the trailer comes inside to provide a focus for their inventory, and one end of the trailer’s interior is curtained as a dressing room—great idea!

Jon Jenkins obviously loves the Vintage Marketplace concept. The section draws younger customers on a budget and also introduces them to the more serious antiques elsewhere at the show. Now in its third year, the marketplace has grown. Jenkins explained, “Part of that is the realization that this is becoming an increasingly important part of the business. They’re just like any other section of the show. There are people who have done spectacular business and others who say, this is not working for me. Overall, the feedback on the entire show has been really good.”

Jenkins also runs a monthly Indie Arts and Vintage Marketplace in Indianapolis and a twice-a-year vintage section at the Springfield [Ohio] Extravaganza in May and September.

All in all, the show seemed to be having a strong year. One unfortunate absence was Pennsylvania exhibitor Greg Kramer, who had weather/ transportation problems. His mega-booth was there, but the dealer did not make it.

Jenkins wisely runs a shuttle from the fairgrounds to Heart of Country at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. That is a definite plus, because the parking at the hotel is free. At Tailgate/Music Valley lot, the fairgrounds’ $5 lot charge for each visit is annoying; there needs to be a work-around if not a readmission. Also Jenkins’s lighted marquee sign for the show failed to arrive in time, and there was no signage guiding the way to the buildings.

Management should provide a better dealer list with a complete show map at the event. The Vintage Marketplace exhibitors could be listed in a separate section. Jenkins has launched enthusiastically into using new media, but the Web site (www.tailgatemusicvalley.blogspot.com) needs an organizational update. This antiques show, and indeed all such events, ought to provide a current on-line exhibitor list with contact numbers and Web sites. This allows customers to follow up with dealers, even if they lose the business card.

Jon Jenkins was already happily accepting contracts for next year’s show, scheduled for February 12-14, 2015, at the Nashville Expo Center. Contact the management at (317) 598-0012 or e-mail <jonjindpls@aol.com>.


Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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