Friday, March 28, 2014

Totally Texas -- Drop everything to shop at Canton

The first time I went to the First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas, on my own, I was very young. I got there on a Monday. Everybody had packed up and left. Of course, that was also in the dark ages before the Internet. So unlike you, dear reader, I had no idea that First Mondays weren’t on Mondays at all but actually the Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of each month. In this case, April 3-6.

And although it’s a little early, your best, that is, least harried shopping day is Thursday. Which is why I don’t want to wait until next Friday to remind you that you’re running out of that time of perfectly good shopping weather between ice storms and summer’s broiling heat.

The Weather Channel’s forecast for the next Trades Days looks great, with highs in the 60’s to 70’s. Perfect weather for an excursion to Canton and its more than a hundred acres of flea market-style shopping.

About an hour east of Dallas on I-20, you’ll start seeing exit signs for Canton. The Highway 19 exit will take you directly past the flea market’s entry, fronted by fields turned into parking lots. Entry to the flea market grounds is free. Parking usually runs $5 per car, although more remote lots sometimes offer bargains. I personally prefer to take the slightly earlier Highway 64 exit, which goes past the town’s picturesque nineteenth century courthouse square. And past a lot more parking places. Wherever you park, be prepared to walk. (The market’s site,, recommends against wearing flip-flops. You’ll soon understand why.)

Or, be prepared to scoot. Canton does not want shoppers to be discouraged by mobility issues or sore feet. Motorized scooters and carts are available for rental inside each of the ground’s major entrances. Reservations recommended, by calling the vendors listed at the website.

Several locations also offer shopping carts. Or bring your own. I favor a child’s red wagon found at a yard sale, that folds into the trunk of my car.

Canton has been duded up a lot since I first learned how to get there. Now there are covered pavilions near the entrances, ATMs, and plenty of food and drink. The offerings in the pavilions tend to be newer merchandise and crafts. I look, but often the best deals are to be found in the farthest reaches of the flea market. I always have particular items in mind (garden-related, used books, pottery), and usually a tape measure in my pocket. But I also keep an eye open for that unknown item I suddenly can’t live without.

Vendors in the pavilions generally can accept credit or debit cards. And with smart phones, paying with plastic is becoming increasingly easy. However, you should also bring some cash, preferably in smallish bills, for smaller vendors and parking.

Canton’s official website says it’s open “dawn to dusk,” but be warned: opening hours are really up to individual vendors--some earlier, some later. The site is also helpful, but it couldn’t locate that wonderfully weird taxidermy shop I was looking for. If I ever find it again. . . .

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