Bonnet-topped Amish women and $1 sunglasses may seem completely unrelated, but at the Shipshewana Flea Market the two are harmoniously juxtaposed. Located about 3.5 hours northeast of Indianapolis in the heart of northern Indiana’s Amish country is the sprawling Trading Place of America, or Shipshewana Flea Market. From the beginning of May to the end of October, the flea market is open from 8AM to 5PM. During this time thousands of people come from all over come to take part in this one of a kind shopping experience.
Recently I made the long drive and joined the flea market crowd. The drive was pleasant and pretty, but that is to be expected when driving through Indiana farmland. Nothing was especially notable until I entered Shipshewana. I was surprised to find myself edging toward the center of the lane to make room for galloping horses pulling buggies in the shoulder. Men with full beards and wide brimmed hats sat in the buggies, unperturbed by the cars zooming uncomfortably close to them. Having never visited Amish country, it was very interesting to see the archaic Amish culture side by side with the modern amenities I take for granted on a daily basis.
I began the trip by strolling through Yoder’s Meat and Cheese Company. Samples of cheese and meat cubes were available and even encouraged. I happily sampled the offerings and immediately warmed to the flea market.
Fortified by the makeshift h’ors d’oeuvres, I began snaking my way through the more than 900 booths. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and breads tempted visitors upon their immediate entrance. Beyond that laid an overwhelming variety of some of the most random, useless, but inexplicably necessary knick knacks known to man. Dog clothing, tacky lawn decorations, and creepy crying baby dolls could be found in addition to actually useful things like beautiful quilts, athletic socks, and economy-sized shampoo.
I really enjoy thrift and antique stores for the hunt involved, as well as the low prices. Luckily one of my best friends shares this affinity and together we were perfect shopping companions. We took our time, stopping in a variety of booths and carefully considering our purchases. Our approach was leisurely; we had nothing specific to search for and instead enjoyed the lazy wandering. I may be biased, but I feel this is the best way to tackle a flea market. Hidden gems are much more likely to be uncovered when one slows down.
My favorite stalls were those peddling jewelry and antiques. I love vintage jewelry and glassware, and the flea market was filled with both.
Although I made a wide variety of purchases, my favorites are the vintage jewelry that I bought. I was able to buy two necklaces, a bracelet, a pendant, and a pair of earrings for $15.
There are other cool things about the flea market besides what I brought home. Chatting with the shopkeepers, enjoying the pleasant weather, people watching, and trying on wigs in a wig store were all memorable parts of the day.
After several hours of shopping, my friend and I were ready to eat. We ate at the Auction Restaurant, an Amish eatery. The lunch was not especially great, but the piece of blueberry pie that I split with my friend was. Warm pie crust filled with fresh blueberries and whipped cream was the perfect end to a lovely day at the flea market.
A lifelong Hoosier, Emily Metallic is an Indiana University student who was somewhat disillusioned with her home state. After reading the 50 Things Every Hoosier Must Do article in the August 2010 issue of Indianapolis Monthly, Emily made it her mission to complete (and blog about) all 50 Things. Follow her experiences on the #50Things section of the Indiana Insider Blog.