Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
May 25, 2013
The last time I went to the Webster Flea Market, a bargain-hunter's heaven in rural Sumter County, I was just a youngster.
My uncle, my parents and I watched a man buy a gorgeous cream pie, then walk away with the cardboard box tucked sideways under one arm. That was going to be one messy pie.
That was a long time ago, but there still are plenty of sweets at the Webster Flea Market (websterwestsidefleamarket.com), which has been open every Monday (unless Christmas falls on that day) for more than 50 years. It's a sprawling 50 acres of outdoor pavilions and indoor warehouse-style shops on County Road 471 next to the Sumter County Fairgrounds.
Peak season at Webster is in the cooler months between October and April, but there still were plenty of vendors on my recent visit — and with customers in shorter supply, a lot of them are more willing to make deals. This week the market will be open from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will switch to its summer hours (6 a.m. to 2 p.m.) on June 3.
This is high-quality browsing.
From pineapples to puppies, books to blown glass, it's all here. The produce aisle was stocked with beautiful apples, celery, cucumbers, cabbage, collard greens, peppers, onion, honey and tomatoes.
I was tempted by the table of ball caps ($1 each or three for $5). Alas, I don't work for the FBI, so I don't think a cap with the bureau's insignia would be a wise fashion statement.
And while it was fun to sit on an antique bathtub that had been adorned with a Harley-Davidson logo and converted into a couch, it's not something I could see in my living room.
When I stopped to look at an antique suitcase, the vendor immediately offered to knock the $35 asking price in half. So it obviously will be a shopper's market when fewer visitors crowd the market in the coming summer months.
But I can't lie to you: It was hot out there, although it's possible to find pockets of shade under the big oak trees near the main building. Cold draft beer is available nearby.
Uncharacteristically, I passed on the beer, but did munch on a tasty French pastry as I strolled the far end of the market. There, I impulsively bought a 1970s Walt Disney edition Magnus chord organ for the bargain price of $35.
Marked down, of course.
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