When I was a server at Der Dutchman Restaurant, we were often asked, “What do people in Amish country do for entertainment?” It’s true that the nearest mall and movie theater is at least twelve miles away, at least from where I live in Walnut Creek. And really, you won’t see lots of Amish people at the mall anyway. But, just like anyone else, we like to go shopping…with a twist.
One activity that is immensely popular in Amish country is going to auctions, garage sales and flea markets. We just love to sort through other people’s “treasures” and see if there’s anything we can use. To the eye of the beholder, it might be a pile of junk, but it’s just in our genes to be thrifty and either get something for nothing, or make something out of nothing.
One man’s (or woman’s) junk is another man’s treasure
When you travel through Amish country in the spring, it’s common to see Garage Sale signs posted along the road. The Amish and Mennonite community is wild for Garage Sales. Often, you’ll see a particular bunch of neighbors or maybe a town get together and plan to have garage sales on one weekend, so the crowds can visit them all. Extended families will get together to do a family sale. The month of May is prime-time for garage sales.
In the spring, our local free newspaper “The Bargain Hunter” is chock full of Garage Sale ads that will fill at least one whole page of the paper. Usually, the ad will specify whether it’s an Amish sale. This is important if you’re shopping for clothes, although what you’ll find is anyone’s guess. Like a garage sale in any other place, you can find clothes (Amish or otherwise), tools, dishes, antiques, videos, equipment and sometimes even vehicles. And get there early. Folks here get up with the chickens to get their pick of the best deals.
Looking to populate your gardens or flower beds? Often in the spring you’ll see “Perennial Sales”. Amish and Mennonite women love to fill their flower beds with perennial flowers that will come up every year. Perennials need to be divided to bloom properly, so they’ll sell their extras for a dollar or two. It’s a great way to get plantings if you’re just getting started and for a fraction of what you’ll pay at a greenhouse.
Auctions of all kinds
Amish in our area in love with auctions because it’s another way to find good used items. They’ll sell nearly anything at auction – livestock, horses, vehicles, farms, houses, antiques and household goods. We have an abundant supply of auctioneers here, so there’s an auction going on somewhere almost all the time. There area a couple auction houses in Holmes County with regular auctions on Monday and Thursday nights. You’ll be able to find a schedule and sale bill in any of our local newspapers, including “The Bargain Hunter“, Dover “Times Reporter”, Sugarcreek “Budget” and Wooster “Daily Record”.
You’ll need a valid ID like a driver’s license to obtain a buyer’s number. If you have the winning auction bid, you’ll need your buyer’s number to identify you. It’s good practice to keep track of what you buy on the back side of the buyer’s card. Even auctioneers make mistakes on occasion. One more piece of advice at auctions – some of us tend to talk with our hands. Be careful you don’t accidentally bid on some useless widget or perhaps a very expensive antique piece. As they say, once the gavel falls, the item is sold!
Flea Markets and Antiques
A traditional flea market is usually a variety of vendors who deal in “junque” (antiques + junk). Nearly every Amish livestock auction in the area has a flea market. Expect to find tools, glassware, dishes, knives, books, watches and so on. They are open during the spring, summer and fall months at Farmerstown on Tuesdays, Mount Hope on Wednesdays and Kidron on Thursdays and on Saturdays. Besides “junque,” you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetable vendors selling whatever happens to be in season.