Purchase Story

A Gathering on the Prairie

Arthur, Illinois

The kitchen might not have been the most important part of A Gathering on the Prairie, but it did say something about the show. More on that shortly.

Held March 3 at the Otto Center in Arthur, Illinois, A Gathering on the Prairie, now in its 15th year, is the last of five shows that make up the semiannual Antiques Week in Central Illinois, an extravaganza that focuses on country antiques and Americana. The only single-day show in the mix, A Gathering on the Prairie offered shoppers a seven-hour window to buy from 52 dealers. “It’s what I have space for,” said promoter Donna Kibler.

A Gathering on the Prairie is the only show of the week held solely on the weekend. This means that nine-to-five workers who can’t make it to the openings of the other shows don’t have to worry about picking through leftovers. Everyone who comes through the door at 8 a.m. has a fair shot at something fresh.

Tim Chambers of Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Missouri, was justifiably proud of his papier-mâché pig, especially considering the size of the porker, measuring 21" high x 40" long. From the mid-20th century, it was priced at $850.

Folk art came in a number of forms. These carved fish were priced at $595 each and offered by Roy and Diane Walker of Country at Heart, Marseilles, Illinois. The one at the top has painted details and was said to be a codfish trade sign from a Maine seafood restaurant, while the other fish, having metal fins and gills, its teeth made of square nails, came from a Connecticut collection.

Made from shipping crates and twigs, this piece of folk art was hand decorated in silver paint with flowers and stars, while also lettered “Match Box” and “In God We Trust.” Measuring 14" high x 13½" wide, it was priced at $145 by Dan and Barb Olmstead of Park Place Antiques, Center Point, Iowa.

Folk art carvings in the booth of Michael P. Christy of Comet Lake Antiques, Green, Ohio, included a shelf featuring applied designs of fish, snowflakes, and a rosette. With painted ends and measuring 23" long, it was priced at $350. On top, the carved figures ranged from $35 to $150 each.

Originating in Wythe County, Virginia, this pie safe has a divided interior and 24 tins. It was priced at $3900. The North Carolina face jars were made by (left to right) Burlon Craig (1914-2002), brown glaze, 16½" high, tagged $1400; A.V. Smith, green glaze, 18" high, $550; and Steve Abee, brown glaze, 18" high, $400. They were shown by Jay and Carole Harper of American Spirit Antiques, Murphy, North Carolina.

That’s just part of the charm of the show. There’s also atmosphere, including a horse-drawn wagon ride from the grassy parking area to the Otto Center. And then there’s the homemade food offered in the kitchen. It’s there Kibler usually spends part of her day, although this year proved an exception because of a turn of events. One of the show’s dealers, Dale Frese of Watkins, Iowa, was involved in a traffic accident on his way to Arthur. The crash totaled his vehicle and trailer, and Frese was transported to the hospital. He was soon released and sent home, but that left an empty booth in the Otto Center. The dealers responded, lending items from their own inventory to help fill the space. More than that, however, they generously donated cash when a collection was taken to help Frese.

“They rallied around him, and we sent him a very nice sum of money by taking up a freewill donation to help in any way we could,” said Kibler. “We actually pulled together from different people to fill up the booth and make it look nice. I manned the booth, which is different for me, because I’m normally between the kitchen and front gate and my own booth. The dealers were genuinely concerned. It was touching to see how they responded by opening up their pocketbooks. He’s doing fine.”

The long bucket bench in mustard paint was sold early in the show by Ed Logan of Danville, Illinois. In the background, the pine table with cutout corners was $450, while the paint-decorated rocking horse was $990.

Among the few bucket benches on the floor was this small example, 33½" high x 37" wide, in blue paint, priced at $375 by Barbara Remshardt of Antique Addict, Owensville, Missouri. The “Kerosene Oil” container in red paint was $275; footed redware bowl, $69; blue box, $155; measure, $78; blue and white wool blanket, $89; utensil carrier with a heart cutout, $130; apple basket, $139; rug in basket, $159; and rug on floor, $29.

Of the redware found at A Gathering on the Prairie, nothing else was as big as this four-gallon jar that stands roughly 17" high. It was priced at $285 by David and Dotty Shepherd of Black Sheep Antiques, Arcola, Illinois. The basket was $125; pantry box, $135; redware mold, $95; and the measure in red paint was $125.

If there was a bit of karma involved, the generosity of the dealers was paid back by an enthusiastic crowd eager to spend some money on the floor. “I heard a lot of good comments from the dealers about how well they had done,” Kibler said after the show.

There was another indicator of the event’s success. “The kitchen ran out of food,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, that was a good day.”

Buyers came hungry, and not just for pie. They bought furniture. They bought smalls. As the day wore on, they continued coming through the door. For the most part, that’s a typical day at A Gathering on the Prairie. However, Kibler did note one difference between the fall and spring shows.

The tail of this whirligig was made from a 1921 Illinois license plate. The fan blades are also metal. In red, white, and blue paint, the piece was priced at $175 by Douglas R. Wyant of Cassopolis, Michigan.

Dan and Debbie Schrum of Granville, Ohio, anchored the center of their booth with a workbench having two vises, one being dovetailed. The leg of the workbench is stenciled for the Grand Rapids Body Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In excellent condition, the piece was priced at $1250. Above it, the firkin and pantry box lids, in red, blue, black, and natural, were offered as a set for $250.

The six-drawer apothecary at the top of the photo was priced at $295, while the apothecary beneath it, having a paneled door in the upper-left corner, was $1095. To the right, the eight-drawer tobacco cabinet in gray paint was $275. Smalls included pantry boxes at $145 to $295 each. They were shown by David and Beth Noll of Deer Park, Illinois.

“For the past four or five years, we have sold a lot of big furniture in the fall and sold a lot of things that can be carried out in the spring. I don’t know why,” she said. “I’ve been trying to figure it out, and I think the difference is some of the people we see. The snowbirds are still gone in the spring. But I don’t know if that has any difference on the furniture or not.”

Of course, furniture still sells in the spring, but maybe to a different degree. Sellers certainly brought prime pieces, including many items in early paint. Among them were a Chippendale chest in blue, 1750-90, priced at $2580 by Marti Korba of The old Shed, Russiaville, Indiana; a red 18th-century one-door cupboard with HL-hinges and rosehead nails, 75" high x 47" wide, priced at $4900 by David Cotton and Heather Malott of Cotton’s Antiques, Wabash, Indiana; and a large screened pie safe in red, 67¼" high x 68½" wide, $1250 from Maureen and Jim Little of Pigeon Hollow Farm Antiques, Kingston, Illinois.

Found in Maine, this 1840 wedding portrait depicts Ruth Freeman Richardson, wife of Amos Richardson. Measuring 28" x 23¾" (sight size) and having been cleaned and reframed, it was priced at $899 by Joe Cardetti of Kracker Barrel Antiques, St. James, Missouri.

Jacque Bradford of Indianapolis, Indiana, offered these two straw-stuffed, glass-eyed toys, a 12½" tall teddy bear at $155 and a 9½" long elephant at $205.

In red paint and said to have come from Maine, this miniature blanket chest, 15½" high x 22½" wide, was priced at $850 by Elaine and Bob Winslow of Mountain Windfall Antiques, Estes Park, Colorado.

Folk art was offered in a variety of forms at the show. Among the more unusual items was a 40" long papier-mâché pig, priced at $850 by Tim and Charline Chambers of Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Missouri, while a small carrier made of packing crates and twigs, having a bentwood handle over a divided base lettered “Match Box” and “In God We Trust” in silver paint, 14" high x 13½" wide, was $145 from Dan and Barb Olmstead of Park Place Antiques, Center Point, Iowa.

Also from the Olmsteads came one of the not-so-small smalls—a pantry box that stood 13" high and 20½" in diameter. In pumpkin paint, it was priced at $1150. Roy and Diane Walker of Country at Heart, Marseilles, Illinois, had a New England paint-decorated leather fire bucket lettered for Company 8 of the fire brigade at Sandwich, Massachusetts, in red paint with yellow lettering, priced at $1600. Douglas R. Wyant of Cassopolis, Michigan, showed a whirligig in red, white, and blue paint, the tail made from a 1921 Illinois license plate behind a set of metal blades, priced at $175.

At the end of the day, pie or no pie, Kibler was pleased with what her dealers brought and how well they did at the show. “Every time they say, ‘It’s the best one.’ They push each other to do it,” she said.

The fall edition of A Gathering on the Prairie will be held November 10. For more information, phone Kibler at (217) 620-8983 or visit (www.agatheringontheprairie.com). 

Originally published in the June 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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