When Jason Behrens moved from Florida to Maine 12 years ago, he brought with him an idea from the South. In many towns across his former home state, flea markets popped up every weekend, attracting thousands of browsers looking for everything from basic home goods to rare antiques. They were central hubs of the community, and after spending a year or two in Maine, he was surprised to find they really weren’t as popular here.
“I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t something people did up here,” said Behrens, 40. “I mean, you get yard sales, antique dealers, food vendors, people making crafts and stuff, all in one place. They’re huge.”
After mulling it over for some time, this year Behrens bit the bullet and started the brand-new Bangor Festival Flea Market, which will happen nearly every weekend of the summer, beginning Memorial Day weekend and running through Oct. 9. It’ll be held in the Bass Park parking lot, next to the Auditorium. It’s similar to the flea markets found in towns such as Searsport or Brunswick, but with more of everything, from quirky old antiques to furniture, from basic home goods to farmers selling fruits and vegetables, along with everything in between. There’ll be some organization to the vendors, as well as indoor and outdoor elements. In short, it’s a whole lot of interesting stuff and interesting people, all in one place.
“When I sat down with [Bass Park director] Mike Dyer to talk about my idea, he thought it would do really well,” said Behrens, who by day works for Lane Construction. “It’s a fun, family-friendly kind of thing. You can come browse, bring your kids, meet people, have some lunch, and maybe find something interesting, or just something affordable for your family.”
Families having yard sales, antique dealers, craftspeople, farmers, food makers and everyone in between can rent space for a small fee. A vendor can set up underneath the huge, 100-by-30-foot tent for $60 for the weekend or outside the tent for $20. Farmers and growers can set up for $20-$30; 3-by-8-foot plastic tables are available for rent for $10; and a family can have a yard sale for an entire weekend for $20.
“If you live far away from town and have a hard time attracting traffic if you’re having a yard sale, you can just bring all your stuff to Bangor, set up here, and have a captive audience all weekend,” said Behrens.
Behrens chose to call it the Bangor Festival Flea Market because of the carnival-like atmosphere of some big flea markets in the South — and because his big tent also has a circus kind of feel. It’s big enough that drivers will be able to see it from Interstate 395.
So far, he has a number of vendors already signed up, from Mexican food purveyors Los Dos Hermanos to Holden-based Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit for whom Behrens is waiving the vendor fee.
“I definitely welcome area charities to contact me about having something here, to raise money or awareness or whatever they want,” said Behrens. “This is something for the community.”
“We all want to have fun this summer,” he said. “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with this.”
The Bangor Festival Flea Market will be held May 28-29; June 4, 11-12, 19 and 25-26; and July 2-3 and 9-10. It will take a break for a month and then return Aug. 13-14 and 20-21; Sept. 3-4, 17-18 and 24-25; and finally Oct. 1-2 and 8-9. To arrange to sell at the Flea Market, call Jason Behrens after 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 299-5071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The market will run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, visit www.bangorfestivalfleamarket.com.