Lookin’ for a bargain on almost everything?

Point your vehicle about 60 miles due east of Dallas on I-20, and you will arrive at the mother of all flea markets – First Monday Trade Days, in small Canton, Texas. This incredible get-together is scheduled one long weekend monthly, actually held Thursday through Sunday, preceding the first Monday of each month. My bride, Ms. Debbie, and I have totally enjoyed our visits to this happening, about half a dozen times in the last few years.

On second thought, you probably should either take a truck or pull a portable trailer behind you, if you drive to Canton, because you just might get caught up in all the buying frenzy. The end result will be you will shop until you drop.  If that happens, you certainly will need a larger carrying-your-stuff-home vehicle than your typical family passenger car.

How about some statistics?

The Canton gathering is “allegedly” the largest flea market in the world.  The area is around 100 total acres, located north of downtown, and at it’s maximum capacity, it will have about 6,000 vendors. What??  That means up to 100,000 shoppers converge monthly into this Van Zandt County town of only 3,600 permanent population. What, again?

Yes, dear readers in Our Town and far beyond, this monthly event is over-the-top, 12 times per year. It is not to be overlooked by the regular “garage-sale” crowd.

The history of the place is as interesting as the assortment of stuff, everywhere you look, when you are an on-site shopper. Not all historians or storytellers agree, but probably the most popular theory is the swap meet began sometime in the 1850s. In those times, the circuit judge would come into the area to conduct legal court proceedings. People would be attracted by this monthly court happening, and would also come to purchase wild horses. 

These animals were brought to the area to be legally auctioned off during the same court time period.  Over the years, people began bringing their own horses, dogs, pigs, and other livestock, along with their farm produce, and other “stuff” to sell to interested buyers. As the word spread throughout East Texas and beyond, the Canton sale grew and grew and grew. It is so big now, folks, my bride and I usually rent one-person scooters each, to transport us from points A, to B, ....to Z, all day long.  How much time should you devote to a Canton visit? Well, my answer is going to be at least 8 hours, depending on the local weather, your physical endurance, your financial endurance (ATM’s around every turn, for your spending pleasure), and, possibly, your sanity.  Don’t worry about your bodily needs, a plethora of carnival-type and sit-down foods and drinks are everywhere, and adequate rest room facilities, with excellent signage to direct the masses to those regular needs.

Speaking of directions, it is not too difficult to get temporarily lost during your shopping/looking outing.  Don’t panic, however, signage and print maps are available, without too much effort required on your part.

Here’s a totally fun factor – bargaining with a vendor on anything you think you might want, even though deep down you know you don’t need it.  You are much more prone to get this stuff if you are totally convinced you got an absolute great deal on it. Remember, one person’s junk is someone else’s treasure?

If you decide you want to spend more time at this spectacle, there are several area motels that will help you out, so you really can choose a several day stay in order to get more stuff. Always remember, your nest-of-rest back home can probably use more stuff. Also,very importantly, if you want to take a short shopping break inside the facility, people-watching (a favorite of mine!) is a prime event, and is free.

So, if you have a small shopping desire anywhere in your personality, please visit Canton. You absolutely will be a satisfied customer.

Robert Breedlove is an Oklahoma State University news-editorial journalism graduate, and a former newspaper (including News Press) reporter. He resides in Stillwater, and has for most of his life. He has been a contributing writer to various media over the United States for years. He may be reached at dermrefmd@aol.com.

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