On June 2 and 3, a huge field on the outskirts of Prairie Grove will hold the largest selection of open-air flea market booths in the Northwest Arkansas area. From polished antiques to funky vintage treasures to rusty farm finds, shoppers should be rewarded with just about anything they're looking for at the Junk Ranch, which boasts 150 vendors and more than 200 booths.
We asked a few vendors what they're bringing to the event, how they got involved in junking, and what their best find ever was.
Don Wilkinson found his way to junking the way a lot of vendors do: he kept finding great stuff while shopping for his own collection of vintage Speas Vinegar bottles. So when he retired in his mid-50s after 35 years with the Arkansas Highway Department, he threw his hat into the flea market ring and got a booth at one of the largest flea markets in the country in Canton, Texas. After 10 years of selling at Canton, he moved up to an even bigger venue -- Round Top, Texas, the Holy Grail of flea markets.
"It was a lot of work on my part," he says. "We would haul seven or eight trailer loads down between shows, store them, and then we'd go down and set up and stay two weeks, selling. We sold to people from everywhere -- California and everywhere. They got to buying from me, and they actually got to buying too much. It became too much of a job, and age took over."
Wilkinson is 85 now, and he was thrilled when the Junk Ranch opened up so near his home in Mountainburg. Though the main product he sells are chicken laying houses -- he estimates he's sold around 30,000 over the course of his junking career -- the booth he runs with his son is an eclectic mix of auction, estate and farm sale finds.
Wilkinson's best find ever was deceptively simple: a box full of old bottle caps.
"I told my wife, 'I found the Holy Grail,'" he remembers. "They were unused, cork-lined Dr Pepper bottle caps from 1907. The first bottle caps ever used on a Dr Pepper bottle."
When he put them on eBay, he says, "people went crazy."
The Weathered Pearl
Stacey Murphy's relationship with the Junk Ranch started off as a shopper.
"I loved the eclectic mix of old, used, collectible items and the vendor inspired pieces! I thought to myself, 'I could do this,'" she recalls. "I applied the next year, and junk has been my livelihood ever since."
Murphy advises yard sale shoppers to look for the signs with a torn piece of cardboard with the word "sale" scribbled across it as a marker.
"Often these sales are not advertised on social media, so it increases your chances of finding a hidden treasure," she says.
She also hits the widely advertised sales, like the Oklahoma 100-mile Yard Sale. That's where she found her favorite find: a 13-foot late 1800s banquet table discovered in a barn in Cleveland, Okla.
"I have done several shows all over Oklahoma and Arkansas, and I would say what sets the Junk Ranch apart from the others is the venue itself, the friendly vendors, the amazing shoppers, but most of all how well [Junk Ranch founders] Amy [Daniels] and Julie [Speed] have it organized," Murphy says.
Rusty Heart Relics
"I have always loved old things as long as I can remember," says Tracy Davis of Rusty Heart Relics. "My mama had an eye for the ornate and passed it along to me. We spent many a weekend traveling the roads for that elusive treasure."
For her booth, she stocks a wide variety of items.
"I love vintage and antique garden items, primitive and antique furniture, and holiday decor," she says. "I loved MCM before it was cool."
Her favorite find is an antique child's bedroom suite she found at the famed Texas flea market Round Top.
"It is a beautiful faded robin's egg blue with a painted design, and it's to die for," she says.
Davis has had a love affair with the Junk Ranch since the first year.
"From the live music and food trucks to the mountains of treasures and lovely vendors, I knew this was the show that I wanted to be a part of," she says. "Amy and Julie are the best and treat us like family."
WHEN -- 9 a.m.-3 pm. June 2; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.
WHERE -- 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove
COST -- $10
INFO -- thejunkranch.net