On the Road

A practical guide to the funky wonders of Texas Antiques Week

A practical guide to the funky wonders of Texas Antiques Week

Tarra Gaines Antique Week beginner's guide March 2015 Punkie's place
These pointers will help you survive the funky world of Texas Antiques Week.  Photo by Tarra Gaines

Having lived in Texas for half my life, I tend to think I’ve seen it all. Yet every once in a while I’m again surprised by whole segments, subcultures and extravaganzas I never knew existed.

Recently I had such a reminder of my occasional event ignorance when I discovered Texas Antiques Week. After asking myself how have I never heard of this thing, I drove about a hour and a half to explore this remarkable collusion of fine antiques and marvelous junk for myself.

I survived and have returned to answer all your questions about the beautiful and tacky wonders of Antiques Week.

Antiques Week, huh? What is this thing, and is that name accurate?
Antiques Week, though some people and sites seem to call it Antique Week or Antique Weekend, is a loose collection of antique shows and fairs, all with separate names, that are mostly situated along HWY 237 between Burton on 290 and La Grange on 71 in the towns of Carmine, Round Top and Warrenton, with additional venues close by in Fayetteville and Shelby.

Antiques Week runs for two weeks in many of these towns every fall and spring. Like the meadows of bluebonnets that will wave at you along your drive, the individual sites and shows bloom in increments, but all the antiques will be flowering the first weekend in April.

That’s a lot of area to cover. Where should I begin?
You’re probably not going to be able to see everything, if you’re only going for the day. Pick and choose what kind of antiquing/junk surveying experience you want to have.

Some of these shows are housed in picturesque barns and dance halls, while some just seem to be temporary villages of white tents set up in cow pastures. From my one-day survey of Great Antique Road (aka HWY 237), I found the Carmine shows to be a good quick introduction. The Round Top fairs appeared to be a bit more organized and genteel, while Warrenton is about a mile-long stretch of tents along both sides of the two-lane highway.

Warrenton’s shows seemed perfect for those collectors with brave and wandering souls. Some tents were a hodgepodge of items, in no discernible order, that will be quickly purchased and then replaced with new objects within a day. Other tents had a more thematic or specialized decor, like the one I dubbed Moroccan Lamp Bazaar or Big Boy’s Retirement Home. One eye-pleaser looked a little like Alice in Wonderland’s Quinceañera, as party-planned by Willy Wonka.

Who should go?
If you are a DIY-er looking to make a chandelier out of an old air conditioning roof vent, this is the weekend for you. If you’re a collector of any kind of glass, pottery or gas station sign memorabilia, you’ll probably find it here.

Ready to folk-art out your lawn with a colorful iron garden? Head on down. If you’re an independent horror filmmaker looking for inspiration, just stop by that one Warrenton tent specializing in decapitated doll heads and stare into their windows-to-hell eyes.

Even if you don’t plan on shopping and just want to be amazed at the crazy shit other people will buy, this is your antique fest. Be warned this is not a sedate shopping experience. You’re going to need to hike, or at least scooter along, to truly appreciate the chaos.

What should I bring?
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. GPS tag your car because you’re probably going to forget where it is. Serious shoppers should bring a sturdy rolling cart. There are entrance fees for some of the indoor venues, and you might need cash for parking in other places. Arrive early on the weekend. I’ve been told by one veteran vender that HWY 237 becomes a parking lot by midmorning.

Most importantly, bring a shopping support person to keep you balanced.

What type of shopping buddy is right for me?
Bring that friend who knows you well enough to cut you off or urge you forward. For example, I’m a dreamer shopper who always wants to see everything, just in case there’s something better just up the road. Since I know this about myself, I brought my mom who is more of a “We’re never getting back here, Tarra, so buy it now” pragmatist.

This philosophy is very useful at Antiques Weekend because the sites are enormous, and you’re never again going to find that one booth selling a giant, blue hippo head drinking fountain once you pass it.

If, however, you are easily persuaded, you probably should bring that blunt friend who will ask where the hell exactly in your two bedroom townhouse you plan on placing a blue hippo head water fountain.