What is Canton First Monday? Well, it's only the oldest, largest continually operating outdoor flea market in the United States. It takes place the weekend before the first Monday of the month. If you love vintage, antiques, dirt, a little rust and a whole lot of history, then Canton is the place for you. The first time I went I was completely overwhelmed. I didn't know where to go, what to think or what to buy. I've been quite a few times now and each time I go, I learn a little more. I can still get lost in a heart beat. I depend on my mom mainly to keep me straight but also my trusty map.
This past weekend my mom and I went one more time just for the day and had a great day! The weather was absolutely beautiful! It was about 75 degrees that afternoon. I had a list in my hand, my mother by my side and new tennis shoes on my feet which proved to be a poor decision in the end.
I go to Canton mostly to go prop shopping for my photography business. I have found tricycles, wagons, child's rocking chairs, vintage ABC blocks, hand sewn quilts, lace bonnets for my newborn shoots, vintage handkerchiefs...and the list goes on and on. Sure you can find all of these things on ebay or etsy but will you be able to bargain the price or meet the people who own the shops? Probably not. And in Canton you don't have to pay for shipping! I have found some pretty amazing deals by simply asking. It never hurts to be nice, too. :)
Before you load up and head to one the largest flea markets in the US, there are a few things that I think you should know:
1. Have a plan in mind. Even just a rough idea is nice. For instance, this past Saturday I knew I was looking for props and a few decor items for our bedroom. I had about three places I knew I wanted to go to and we marked them on our map. The rest of the afternoon we spent wandering around the open air area hunting for props.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. I thought I was doing that this time but the shoes I put on I had really only worked out in a few times. They were still fairly new. Even though they were tennis shoes, they were not broken in. And my dogs were barking by 3pm. It is not important to look cute at Canton. It is not a fashion show, people. Wear the most comfortable shoes you own and NOT NEW ONES.
3. Bring cash. Some of the boutiques in the pavilion will have a credit card machine but the internet connection is unreliable so sometimes they cannot run CCs. Have plenty of cash and lower bills. Not just $100 bills. And just to be nice, please don't offer someone a $100 bill at 8am when they first open and ask for change. Chances are they won't be happy with you. :)
4. Rent or buy a cart. They have little carts, or buggies as some people call them, for rent or for sale for pretty cheap. I think they are $10 for the day or $40 to purchase. Obviously if you plan on coming more than once, you should just go ahead and by one. Oh, and get one with the swiveling wheels. You can thank me later. They are pretty hard to navigate otherwise.
5. Go ahead and leave your kids and dogs at home. I see people at Canton trying to make the most of the weekend or the day, however long they are there for, with their children and failing miserably. It's hot. It's crowded. Your kid probably thrives on a schedule. He's cranky because it's time for bottle and you can't get to it in time because it's underneath everything in your cart or there's nowhere even halfway private to breastfeed. I don't have children so I get that I might be making some moms mad and I'm sorry, but wouldn't you enjoy yourself more if you didn't have to worry about when to feed, when to wipe and dear Lord, what in the world do you do if you kid just has a full on melt down. I mean, you came all that way, and what do you do, turn around and go home? Just get a sitter or your mom or husband to watch them. You'll enjoy yourself more, I promise. Oh and the dog thing. Just don't. I mean, I'm obsessed with my dogs but I don't bring them shopping. Would Lady look cute sitting in a wagon being pulled around Canton all day. Of course! But it's just not practical. And where are you going to put all of your purchases, if your buggy has a big dog bed in it? So fight the urge, if just for one day. (Of course this is just a suggestion based on my personal observation. If you're feeling brave then by all means, ignore me.)
6. Bring a map. Print one off the internet and bring it with you. You'll need it. Oh and pay attention to where you park, you'll want to get back to your car eventually.
7. The buddy system. If you go on a girls weekend and bring several friends with you, don't expect to all shop together. It's difficult to all stick together in this place. So pair off based on what part of Canton you want to conquer. Believe me, it'll be way easier than playing the 'shop and wait' game. You don't want to stand around and wait on 6 of your friends while they look at stuff you're not in the least bit interested in.
8. Have a meeting point. If you are with several people and are not shopping together, then have a meeting point and time to meet. Usually whoever I'm with, we'll plan to meet for lunch. We'll regroup, talk about how the morning went, any great purchases we found, then we'll go load up our car. With our buggies freshly unloaded, our stomach full and energy levels back up, we'll go back out for Round #2. We'll settle on a departure time and plan on meeting at a certain place (usually it's the car). We'll load up again, then go eat dinner.
That's a good start at least to conquering Canton. There is no way to possibly conquer all of Canton in one day but you can surely try!
Conner & Scooter enjoying my vintage lawn furniture I picked up this past weekend in Canton.