Our set up at Atlanta Earth Days
Indiana offers some really nice fall festivals that are suitable for the entire family. Depending upon your home location, many of these will be a great event for a one day outing.
Atlanta Earth Days has been a tradition in central Indiana for years. Entertainment and hundreds of craft and merchandise vendors set up all over town. You can find anything for sale at this exciting shopping event. Bands also perform, and there are tons of food vendors scattered throughout the town. Thousands of folsk take advantage of this iconic festival each year.
Atlanta is just minutes north of Indianapolis. Here is their website.
The Cataract Bean Festival is held the first weekend in October in the tiny town of Cataract, Indiana. Home to the Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, the site is perfect for a fun event. The Cataract Volunteer Fire Department puts on the event which is their fundraising project each year.
Over 700 pound of beans are cooked over open fires in huge cast iron kettles. Served with cornbread, the firefighters always sell out each day! In addition to local entertainment, one of the highlights is the huge open air market. Crafts and flea market vendors fill nearly every open spot in the town. In addition you’ll find the full range of food concessions set up. Here is the VFD website.
Fort Vallonia Days in Jackson County is also one of those huge festivals set in a tiny town. Each year this festival continues a decades long tradition of providing a wholesome family event. The normal crowd size reaches nearly 30,000 people! Running for two days, Saturday is the day of the large parade that is fun for kids of all ages.
Hundreds of vendors are set up selling all kinds of goods. You can find inexpensive new merchandise, great antiques and lots of beautiful handmade crafts. Food? You bet! There are all the usual food concession trailers scattered around the town. Here is the Fort Vallonia Days website.
Large crowds looking for that elusive bargain!
Each October Parke County, Indiana is the scene of the annual Covered Bridge Festival. This event sees close to two million people converging on the area for a ten day festival. While there are several beautiful vintage covered bridges scattered throughout the county, most folks come for the shopping.
And shopping there is! There are several small communities that become filled with vendor tents, food concession trailers and outdoor ‘yard sale’ type setups. It is true to state that if you can think of it it can be found for sale somewhere amongst the thousands of different vendors set up.
That’s our RV on the right in the background, set up at the old school campground at Bridgeton Indiana
We have set up camp in the little town of Bridgeton at an old (1920’s) school building grounds. There are several vendors set up on the grounds along with some food concession trailers. A few blocks north of our location there are hundreds of inside and outside vendors set up selling their wares. There are hand made crafts, new merchandise, antiques large and small and tons of “re-purposed” items. It is amazing how many ways an old wood pallet can be reused!
One of the hundreds of vendor displays at Bridgeton
The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival should be on your bucket list. It is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the country. People from all over the country come to shop, as well as come to set up their booths and tents to sell. There are plenty of RV campgrounds nearby and many private land owners open their yards and fields for RVs to camp during the festival.
Dealer parking only: about five spaces for hundreds of dealers!
EXIT 76 Antiques is located off, ah, you guessed it, EXIT 76 on I-65 about 30 miles south of Indianapolis. We have recently rented a booth at this popular antique mall. The place is huge, with over 70,000 SF of climate controlled space. There are literally hundreds of dealers and booths. The nice thing about this establishment is both the number and quality of the people who work there. There are always staff walking around, opening locked cases for customers as well as being an added security measure above and beyond the CCTV.
The staff is now used to our showing up with our RV and parking for a while not only while we unload things to stock our booth, but to also stick around awhile. If we are going to be there long, I don’t park in one of the limited number of spaces for dealers.
The Entrance to the antique mall
Necklaces displayed on a peg board and in packages on the table.
We help finance our full time RV lifestyle by selling at festivals, fairs, and sometimes
Single pegboard display and necklaces in white jewelry boxes
flea markets. The set-up costs including at least electric hook-ups give us not only very cheap camping but a chance to make some money by selling our wares.
What do we sell? The main product we sell are hand made glass necklaces. We got a great deal on 5000 units about a year and a half ago.( I won’t advertise our source here but contact me if you want details.) Necklaces like these have been around a while. Often our customers will comment that they have bought some at other places. This is fine, as we have a huge variety and they usually buy one or two more from us!
The price? We normally sell these for $5.00. At one large ten day festival we had two prices: $5 and $7 depending on the style. This two tiered pricing worked fairly well, though we have not used it at three or four day events.
We have also sold “cooling” neck and head bandannas with great success. You have to look for good wholesale pricing on these to be profitable. We also have had reasonable luck with cheap imported turquoise necklaces. Both these items we have found on Liquidation.com, an auction site where you can find about anything!
There are some basic bits of information you need to know about setting up for cheap camping at a festival, fair or flea market. First, most flea markets are two days only, normally Saturday and Sunday. Fairs are almost always at least a week, while festivals can be anywhere from three to ten days. We prefer the festivals.
This past August we hit four events in a row. We stayed a week at each, and in two out of four cases we only paid for the vendor spots, even though we were at each location longer than the four days of the event.
For example, we arrived at one festival on Monday, paid our $40 for the Thursday – Sunday festival, and had 20 AMP electric and city water hookups. We had six nights of camping for $40. On the subject of utilities, most places will have electric only. And, this is usually a 20 AMP
A good festival set up with electric and water
service. Some may have water, you will probably never find sewer hookups.
You won’t be at a fancy campground with a pool or miniature golf, but you will have fun talking with your customers and fellow vendors. You can trade your wares for food from the concession folks, and maybe find some other items to get to sell at a later show. Do some research online for festivals in your travel range. Let me know if I can answer questions you may have.
Sher broached the subject of paying for camping and gas with our 3F fund in this post. Allow me to expand a bit on that topic.
Starcraft behind two 10′ vendor spaces
A typical vendor space at a flea market, festival or fair is rented in 10′ increments. (Our canopies/tents are 10 x 10) With our old Starcraft trailer we could get by with a 20′ space. We would park the trailer in the back of the space, and then have room to set up our canopies in front of the trailer.
The Hideout behind a 30′ space with two canopies and 10′ open selling area.
With the Hideout we now usually have to get a 30′ spot with the same layout. Sometimes when the spots are deep, we can still rent 20′ with the trailer taking one 10′ and the canopies taking the other 10′.
20′ space w/Hideout: We could have set up two canopies if we wanted to.
I’ll post another article about how to use a flea market or festival as a way to camp for cheap, have some fun, and maybe even make a a buck or two!
The reason we first went to a flea market was to have something to do. Very simple. We were looking for things to do and me, being an almost extreme couponer had an over abundance of health and beauty supplies.
So we head to a Wednesday morning flea market called White’s in Brookville, Indiana. What we found was that we could come over on Tuesday and set up our things to sell. Hey! Did we just get a free night of camping? Now this was 2 years before we went full time in Roadtirement so we didn’t quite grasp the impact of what we had found. We only had to pay for our flea market space and $5 for the use of electricity.
Excitedly we made back the money for our expenses plus paid for our gas coming and going and we had a ball meeting and talking with people.
Gas and campgrounds can be expensive. That is our biggest expense on this Roadtirement adventure. There isn’t much we can do about gas prices, we have to have gas and we have to pay for it.
Maj and I have found solutions for both. We have a 3F fund, which is the flea markets, festivals and fairs that we use to pay for our gas. More coming about that.
Camping we use a variety of methods including our 3F and Passport America membership. We have to be creative with where we park our trailer. We will share them as we find them and as other Roadtirees share with us.