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Heaviest Snowfall of the Year Fails to Deter Exhibitors at Cabin Fever Show

David Hewett | February 15th, 2014

Susan Gault of Thetford Center, Vermont, brought the four-slat rocking armchair in flaking red paint, priced at $95. The stand, a cast resin stack of books, is a fun item that just caught her eye; it too was $95.

Mill Brook Antiques, Reading, Vermont, priced this 14" tall month and day biscuit tin at $395.

Michael and Lucinda Seward of Pittsford, Vermont, arranged the red and cream coverlet from Jefferson County, New York, so the corner with the important facts was visible. The best-known weaver from that area, Harry Tyler, used the fruit trees and picket fence border on another red and cream, or white, Jefferson County coverlet in 1841 (see the illustration on page 39 of John Heisey’s A Checklist of American Coverlet Weavers [1978]). The Sewards’ 1846 coverlet was modestly priced at $575.

Howard Graff of Colt Barn Antiques, Townshend, Vermont, offered a 55" long x 29½" high drop-leaf table with old red surface for $1350.

If you see a big refinished woodworker’s bench in a booth, the odds are it’s the booth of Liberty Hill Antiques, Reading, Vermont. Jim Mulder takes the benches apart and cleans them up. He makes sure that the vises are working and the surfaces are clean enough to be at home in a kitchen. They’re getting harder to find, he said, but he does it. This example was $1650.

The sheet metal horse silhouette weathervane was $395 from Mary and Bob Fraser of Fraser’s Antiques, Chester, Vermont. The lidded box, in the soft old blue color that’s so hard to fake, was $275.

Partridge Hollow Antiques, Milton, Vermont, offered Singer sewing machines for girls (left to right) at $175, $125, and $275.

Quechee, Vermont

One of the situations you face when you’re a show promoter and live in New England is that you’re a hostage to the weather. You can plan a show months in advance, only to discover it’s on the day after the snowstorm of the year shuts down commerce up and down the Eastern seaboard.

That’s what happened when Vergennes, Vermont, dealer and show promoter Greg Hamilton set Saturday, February 15, as the date of the 35th annual Cabin Fever Show in Quechee, Vermont. During the week preceding that Saturday, record amounts of snow were recorded in just about every state from the Deep South to northern Maine.

There were tales of travelers spending days and nights trapped in vehicles on major highways and interstates. There was a 100-vehicle pileup in Pennsylvania, and some areas had no electricity for days afterward.

We who live in the northern states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine were better prepared than the rest of the country. We may complain at the annual town meetings about the need for a new plow truck or the cost of an additional gravel pit, but we have those necessities available when storms hit. Here we plow the roads and then hit them with salt and sand—early and often.

That is why our trip from Brattleboro, just over the Vermont/Massachusetts state line, to the Mid Vermont Christian School in Quechee took us only an hour and a half on Saturday morning.

That’s about a 70- to 75-mile drive, with the first 55 to 60 miles of it on Interstate 91, which received varying amounts of snow, up to 30" on some sections, on Thursday and Friday morning. The remaining miles were on the very rough and frost-heaved Vermont Routes 120 and 4.

The old front-wheel-drive Toyota took it all in stride; we were never slowed by unplowed roads or drifting snow. The only situations that were at all threatening came when ski slope-bound fools passed at speeds reckoned to be in the low 70s. When you hit a patch of ice at those speeds, you’d better have lived right because Judgment Day may be a lot sooner than expected.

It wasn’t an easy drive for the exhibitors on the day prior to the show’s opening. When we spoke with Greg Hamilton on Friday morning to check whether the show was still on, he said because the Mid Vermont Christian School had declared Friday a snow day, there would be no pupils there, and the exhibitors would be able to start setting up as soon as the plowing crew cleaned up the large parking areas.

Jean Tudhope of Back Door Antiques drove south and east from East Middlebury, Vermont, on Friday and reported that it was “about as hairy as it gets,” as she put it. She was pulling a loaded trailer behind her, and that’s always a barrel of laughs on freshly plowed two-lane roads.

When she made the trip home on Saturday evening, she ran into snow with wind-driven cross drifts. That was fun too, she said.

The auditorium was nicely filled and already set up with 30 exhibitors when we arrived at 8:30 for the 10 a.m. opening. “We only had one cancellation,” Greg Hamilton noted. “We were easily able to fill that spot.”

As opening hour approached, one exhibitor came up from the back of the room and peered out the front door. “My God, look at that!” he said. “There’s actually a line out there!”

“Sales were less than I expected at that show,” Jean Tudhope told us a few days after the show closed. “I attribute that to the weather. People got scared by the horror stories they heard and read about and stayed home. Yes, sales were down, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it again. I like the people you meet at that show and expect I’ll sell better next year.”

Once the doors opened, there were several sales almost immediately. Most exhibitors brought middle-market country stuff with prices that were, to say the least, very reasonable.

Very few items carried prices over $1000, and those that did appeared to be well worth the tagged amounts. “The people who did come stayed around a lot longer than usual and shopped very thoroughly,” Tudhope noted.

Greg Hamilton was almost apologetic about his sales. “I had a very good show, especially with furniture,” Hamilton said. “I sold a Chippendale card table, a blanket chest, an upholstered easy chair, and, and, oh yes, I sold the two-drawer writing stand or worktable you photographed.”

Hamilton called back a few minutes later, when he suddenly remembered that exhibitor John Smart had sold a tavern table. “I bought it from him at the end of the show,” Hamilton confessed.

It actually turned out to be a pretty nice day. Most dealers showed some new stuff that they’d picked up over the heart of the winter, and much of it was reasonably priced. Maybe attendance was down from the past years, but a surprising number of people did show up, and the parking lot was nearly full when we left around noon.

For more information, contact Greg Hamilton at (802) 877-3359.

You can’t get a more patriotic rural life accessory than the 38" tall red, white, and blue flax wheel offered at $250 by Thomas Thompson of Pembroke, New Hampshire.

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

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