“ Address: 345 S Van Buren St PO Box 185 Shipshewana, IN 46565 „
Shipshewana and the Flea Market
Shipshewana is in the La Grange County of Indiana around 130 miles east of Chicago and is an Amish centre famous for holding the Midwest's largest outdoor flea market; indeed it is quite the largest market I have ever experienced.
MIND YOUR AMISH MANNERS
When we arrived we headed for the tourist information centre and collected some leaflets about the area and what we could see and do while there. One of the first things you notice are the black horse carriages driven by the local Amish. There are courtesies that they ask you to follow and these are;
Never ask an Amish person to pose for a photograph
Amish buggies have the same right of way as cars so pass them only when traffic allows and leave plenty of room and NEVER sound your horn.
Be aware of bicycles and pedestrians and again adjust your sped and leave plenty of passing space.
Amish homes are private so respect this but many offer local produce for sale and of course feel free to stop and buy.
Most Amish speak three languages, Pennsylvanian Dutch to each other, High German at their services and English to all others who are not Amish. It was lovely when walking around to listen to them talking to each other as it was not a harsh language and it was as though we were in another foreign country hearing this spoken around the market.
The flea market is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 8am to 5pm from May through to October. The Antique Auction is on Wednesday from 9am all year round.
The Livestock Auction is held Wednesdays from 11am all year round
The Horse Auction is on Fridays from 9am all year round
The Antique Gallery is open Mon to Sat 9am -6p May to Sep and 10am -5pm Oct - April
We managed to park reasonably easily and not too far from the market and then in we went. The first few lines of stalls were selling plants and some were stunning flowering pots of colour. Other stalls sold fruit and vegetables which again looked colourful and very fresh.
Cheese was another popular item for sale and also fresh bread and cakes all homemade and being sold by Amish families. Food stalls selling hand rolled pretzels, homemade pies, ice cream or just hot or cold drinks were all doing a brisk trade.
We did stop for a drink and sat down to people watch for half an hour. It was fascinating watching the mix of Amish families and everyone else wandering around together. The Amish ladies all wore different coloured dresses of the same style, good solid footwear and their sort of bonnet head coverings were all in white. Strangely some of the women wore yellow dresses and I can't imagine why no-one had told them that a petticoat or lining might have been a good idea as they were completely see through in the bright sun and you could clearly see their very sensible and worthy under garments. The men wore sort of boater style straw hats, shirts and trousers with braces, the older men had long beards but no moustache.
The rest of the market sold the most amazing collection of produce for many stalls full of Avon toiletries, handbags, household cleaning things, natural cleaners and toiletries, junkie sort of toys, beautiful quilts, fabric, books, many food stalls and so many stalls of total tat. I was actually a bit disappointed with what was for sale as I was hoping for a typical Amish market but this was one enormous flea market and most of the stuff was rubbish; you really had to look hard to find any stalls selling anything different or interesting. Other stall included garden ornaments from concrete, glass hanging things for house or garden, hideous pictures in equally hideous frames, diabetes socks and magnetic therapy jewellery, wigs, memorial stones and benches bird houses , you could even have a massage if you chose in full view of all ( fully clothed of course). I have never seen such a huge area full of so many things and felt absolutely no inclination to buy.
In fact we were more interested in watching the people and seeing what they were buying and selling. I thought it was interesting that there were Amish people selling on the tat stalls as well as the more interesting local handmade stuff.
THE ANTIQUE AUCTION
After we had walked up and down a few of the alleys we decided to go and look at the barn with the auction to see what that was like. The bar was huge and there was not just one auction but hundreds of small auctions . We walked around to see what was being sold being very careful not to wave a hand or nod our head at anyone auctioneering.
There items selling varied from really ancient and pretty tatty looking farm and house hold stuff to antiques and what I would describe as junk. It looked like the sort of things you might find in an old attic or barn when clearing out after an elderly relative has died.
The noise was incredible as all these different small auctions were all going on at the same time. Peoole who had won things were loading up their vans and carriages at one end while others were bringing stuff in to sell. It was chaos but everyone seemed to know what they were doing and you could just about walk between the crowds from one auction to another.
Beside the auction bar was a further covered area of stalls selling once again a huge variety of goods. We bought some quarters from a coin stall as my husband has been collecting the different quarters depicting the states of the USA and was missing about six. I was interested in a small poy of 1c coins he had which said help yourself. Each coin had a different date and attached to each was a small piece of paper upon which was typed several things that had happened in that year. Sadly none of our memorable years was available otherwise I would have picked them up for the children as a novelty memento of their year of birth.
WHAT DID I THINK?
We spent about two hours exploring this market and while we didn't visit every stall after a while we began to notice that they offered much the same as others and three or four of the alleys the full length of the market satisfied our curiosity.
We had a coffee and a sit down, I had a homemade ice cream and my husband tried a pretzel which filled a gap and gave us strength to go and explore other parts of Shipshewana before driving around the local area to see the homes with their washing lines full of coloured dresses, white painted fences and wonderful black horse carriages and all the beautiful horses in the fields. It was very peaceful driving around and admiring the beautifully kept properties.
We even drive through a small town called Emma which I had to get a photo of that name as my daughter is called Emma. This town had a huge quilters shop but as I am rubbish at quilting we didn't go in. We had seen enough beautiful quilts at the Menn hof Visitors Centre in Shipshewana which I have written a separate review about.
If you are in Indiana I would certainly recommend a visit to the Amish country and Shipshewana Flea market is a site to behold but the auction is more interesting because of the noise and activity as well as seeing what they consider antiques.
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