Andrew's best friend Dwight came up for the long weekend, as they haven't gotten much time together since we got married (sorry guys). The two of them planned to hang out Saturday without me, but when we got wind of what was happening an hour away, we knew that all previous plans were scrapped.
What, you ask, could be so exciting?
The Hillsville Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show!
We piled into our car and drove the hour down the road to the tiny town of Hillsville, Virginia. The town boasts a population of less than 3,000 -- but during the Labor Day weekend craziness, they expect about half a million. Holy cow!
The flea market takes up the entire town. We parked at least half a mile away from the beginning of the festivities, and walked over two hours before we reached the other end, probably two or three miles away. Every inch of the roadside is lined with booths, selling all manner of the ridiculous wares you find at flea markets, and in many cases, the booths are three or four deep off the road -- or they are only the beginning of a small town of booths. Dozens of tent cities spread off the main drag, full of strange crap and being admired by thousands of equally strange people. It was fantastic!
Anything you could possibly want is available -- as long as you don't want anything of too high a quality. Dozens of the booths are nothing more than yard sales, full of old bottles and toys. Others are thick with old kitchen equipment, bulk drugstore items (from birth control to deodorant), baseball cards, historical collectibles (those booths were pretty cool), "name-brand" clothing, handmade jewelry, bras in bulk (!?), and piles of Army surplus clothing.
There are equally as many food carts of the sort you only see at town fairs and carnivals, which only sell foods that are very fried and always make you sick. Funnel cakes, chicken on a stick, corn dogs, jumbo turkey legs, ice cream, you name it. Dwight treated us to funnel cakes; it was my first funnel cake since fourth grade, can you believe it?
The best part (other than watching the thousands of people, which was quite entertaining), is the fact that this draws an entire crowd to the second part of the event's title. This is also an annual gun show, which means hundreds of those in the crowd are wearing large orange stickers proclaiming "Guns Save Lives." Oh -- and probably one-third of the booths throughout the town sell guns. Which means probably equally one-third of the considerable crowd are men of various ages walking through the flea market with guns slung over their shoulders.
It's not at all disconcerting; mostly amusing. I'm not at all making fun of this culture: I am a South Carolina girl, born and raised, and a member of The National FFA Organization. But it still makes me smile to see so many interesting people all together in one place.
We didn't buy anything other than food (which made us sick later), but we spent all day walking around, calling one another's attention to various items of interest. Namely, a copy of The Fairie Queen that was about a hundred years old (kind of kicking mysel for not buying it), a case full of KKK artifacts, Justin Beber signs with personalized names, and a framed Lord of the Rings drawing from the 1980s. (This we later saw again in someone's wagon.)
Did I learn anything grand? Did I buy anything artsy? Did I meet a famous person who I'm now friends with?
But we had fun.