Monday, May 31, 2010

To Market, To Market

The Gypsy Caravan is a local Memorial Day tradition. I've never attended, but this year Tony and I decided it would be a fun activity, so this morning we jumped in the car and headed off on an adventure.

Gypsy Caravan, which benefits the Saint Louis Symphony Volunteer Association, is a huge flea, craft, and antique market.  This is the 38th year for the event, which has almost 400 vendors from more than 20 states.  It's held on several parking lots (and in part of one parking garage) at  UMSL, the University of Missouri St Louis.

Before we left for our adventure I did a bit of planning.  I loaded a large tote bag with snacks, a water bottle, and extra sunscreen, then stopped at a gas station ATM to get some cash.  After I got my money I walked over to the cashier and asked him to break the larger bills.  I've done enough bargaining over the years to know it helps to have small bills when you're trying to get a seller to reduce their price!

The Caravan is held on the Main Campus of the school.  All of the parking lots there were full when we arrived, so we were directed to the South Campus about a mile away.  We parked and waited a few minutes for a shuttle bus.  After a short ride, the bus stopped to let everyone off.  We followed the crowd to the entrance, where we paid our admission and got an Event Guide with maps, vendor lists, and other helpful information; we sat at a picnic table in the shade and made a plan of action before we started shopping

According to some accounts, this year's Caravan was expected to draw over 25,000 people. With that many shoppers, it was hard to make it up to some of the booths!  Fortunately, we weren't looking for anything specific, so it was usually easy to tell from a distance whether or not we wanted to take a closer look at something.  This sale had everything: jewelry, clothing, collectibles, furniture, antiques, crafts, yard art, and a lot of miscellany, including a small contingent of direct sales and commercial companies. The food booths had very long lines, so I was glad I had brought something to munch on.

The sun was in and out of the clouds, and there was an intermittent breeze, but otherwise it was a typical hot St. Louis day.  After a couple of hours of shopping, Tony and I had had enough.  We had covered about two thirds of the booths, and everything was starting to look the same.  On the way out we stopped at a yard art booth and bought a metal flower to decorate the front yard.  My small bills came in handy; I offered the vendor less than the posted price, holding the money in my hand.  He accepted my offer.

My purchase wouldn't fit in my bag, so I carried it in front of me as we made our way back to the shuttle bus stop.  I had to be careful not to poke anyone with the pointed bottom as I got off at our parking lot.  We were hot and sweaty back to the car, but it was a lot of fun.


  1. I always wished there would be more things in the spring and autumn when the weather was nicer... like the Japanese festival at Shaw's Gardens. I think it would be lovely when the trees are blooming. Ah well...

  2. The warm weather season is so short for the midwest...we try packing in as much as possible. But it seems every else is doing the no fun fighting the constant crowds. We have the Kane County flea market which is known far and wide. If you like flea markets...this one is a winner.
    Glad you had a good time.

  3. Teri--I'm with you on that one. The problem is guessing when the weather is going to be nice; we had a very rainy spring this year.

    maggies's garden--you're right about trying to do it all while the weather's nice.