'For pleasure or treasure' - Rietta Flea Market opens for the season

Treasure hunting season has officially begun in Hubbardston.

Rietta Flea Market opened for its 54th season on Sunday, a week later than originally scheduled due to last week’s inclement winter weather.

The popular, multi-acre flea market, which has been a popular weekend destination for generations of local bargain browsers, will remain open every Sunday through November. Rietta officials said the flea market average around 400 vendors and 1,000 shoppers each week, numbers that fluctuate depending on the weather.

Opening day at Rietta was traditionally a busy one due to the fact that shoppers were interested in seeing what kind of items the vendors had been collecting during the flea market off-season.

Karen Thunberg of Spencer has had a vendor’s table featuring toys, ceramics, and sports memorabilia at the weekly flea market for the past several years. She said opening day was always an enjoyable one.

“It’s just fun to speak with people and get rid of things I don’t want any longer,” she said.

Vendors arrive early to set up tables

Vendors began arriving in the parking lot during the early morning hours to be among the first to have their tables set up for when the gates officially opened to shoppers at 6 a.m.

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Kim Mulvey and John Chapman of Springfield were back at Rietta as vendors for the first time in about seven years. The pair arrived at 5 a.m. to set up their table featuring hippie clothes, quilts, comic books, and DVDs.

“We really weren’t doing any flea markets for a while, but this is one that I’ve always loved because it’s a beautiful area and a beautiful ride coming out here,” said Mulvey. “I love the crowd here, and it’s a perfect day.’

Jey Gray of Fitchburg was manning the table that her father, Don Gray, has set up at Rietta each week for over 20 years. Her father, who specializes in tools and vintage signs, left her daughter in charge while he was off browsing for bargains.

“My dad loves going to yard sales and collecting – he’s in his late 60s and he loves this,” said Jey.

“It’s been a great day today so far,” said Paul Grenier of Athol, who specializes in selling vintage furniture from the 1950s. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years, just buying and selling and buying and selling.”

Jim Simpson of Brattleboro, VT, had several tables set up to display his collection of coins he had for sale. He said he enjoyed selling at Rietta each week because he was one of the few vendors at the flea market specializing in old coins.

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“If I go to, like, a coin show, I’ll set up and there’ll be 25 or 30 other dealers and they’re all selling coins,” he said. “There are a lot of coin collectors in the Gardner area.”

Bill Butler of Auburn was selling vintage toys for the first time at Rietta. His table was set up inside the flea market’s barn.

“I got lucky with this spot,” he said.

Bill Butler of Auburn, on the right in black hat, discusses some of the vintage toys he has for sale at Rietta Flea Market's opening day on Sunday.
Bill Butler of Auburn, on the right in black hat, discusses some of the vintage toys he has for sale at Rietta Flea Market's opening day on Sunday.

Flea market's origins date back to the 1960s

The origins of the weekly flea market as it is known today are hazy. The property was the site of country-and-western jamborees organized by Ronald and Rita Levesque in 1966. As the crowds attending the shows grew, vendors began setting up tables to sell merchandise, a tradition that continued on the site even after the jamborees were no longer being held.

For the record, Rietta Flea Market officially celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016.

This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Rietta Flea Market open for season in Hubbardston