Antiques festival in Union draws thousands

Posted Aug. 14, 2010, at 7:10 p.m.

UNION, Maine — Paintings, furniture, artifacts and ornaments drew thousands to the local fairgrounds Saturday as people hunted for prized possessions and unusual items that often only turn up at antique shops.

For those who attended Saturday’s event, it was as if they could browse hundreds of antique shops at once. According to Paul Davis, co-founder and owner of the festival, 215 vendors offered their wares for sale at the three-day Maine Antiques Festival.

“Between yesterday and today, we have a lot of happy dealers,” said Davis, who estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 people visited the festival on Saturday.

Davis said that on Friday, the festival was reserved for “premium” buyers, several hundred of whom paid a little extra to have first access to the festival. More than half the vendors are from out of state, he said, and many of those who attended Friday are collectors and sellers who have their own shops elsewhere. Davis said he travels all over the country seeking out vendors and promoting his festival.

“The majority of them were retail people,” Davis said. “The clientele is from all over the world. We had a couple of buyers here yesterday from Beijing.”

The goods offered for sale run the gamut, according to Davis. He said he saw someone Saturday purchase a small carved wooden bear for $4, but there also are works by renowned furniture maker Thomas Moser and others that run into the thousands. He said he heard that one of his vendors had a painting for sale for $136,000.

“It’s everything from formal to folk art,” Davis said. “There’s something for everybody.”

Inside a nearby fair building, Davis knew where there was a highly prized work of art. At a booth run by John and Dannette Darrow of Binghamton, N.Y., the Darrows had a painting by 19th century landscape painter Thomas Hill. Hill, a native of Birmingham, England, was associated with the Hudson River School of painters but was known for his scenic paintings of the Yosemite Valley in California.

Dannette Darrow said the painting of Yosemite Brook had been acquired at an estate sale from someone who had owned it for 65 years. In California, she said, it could fetch as much as $28,000.

“You never know what you’re going to run into,” Darrow said. “It’s fun. It’s the thrill of the chase.”

Davis said Saturdays at the festival, which has been held annually in Union for the past 29 years, tend to attract more people than Sundays. The weather Saturday was sunny and, though rather warm, was certainly better than rainy weather as far as turnout, he said.

Davis said he was hoping for high attendance on Sunday. Paying the $8 admission fee is a small price to pay for being able to examine the seemingly endless items, he said, and much better than just browsing through photos on eBay.

“I like to see it, to feel it, to touch it,” Davis said of whatever object grabs his fancy.

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