By Wendy and Mike Pramik
Posted On: May 11, 2021
A life-size statue of Ronald McDonald, perched on the grass beside the huge parking area, beckons us. We make our way toward the orange-topped novelty figure and meet up with its owner, Jim Privett of Troy.
Privett says he picked up Ronald at a garage sale several years earlier and quickly changes the subject to silver. He tells us how he acquired a love of silversmithing while living in the West. Clearly Ronald is just there to gain attention.
"How much is your Ronald?" a passing customer asks.
"Nine hundred," Privett says, without making eye contact, still talking to us about his love of silver.
"I really enjoy the research and collecting aspect of antiques," he says. "I come here to get rid of stuff like this guy," he says, motioning to the stoic McDonald's collectible.
Privett is one of hundreds of antique merchants who are drawn to Springfield, often hailed as the Antique Capital of the Midwest. The fairgrounds are the site of the monthly flea market, and twice a year it becomes the Springfield Extravaganza, one of the top antique fairs in the country.
But wait. There's more.
Springfield is the site of a handful of large antique barns, easily spotted from I-70. They include the Heart of Ohio Antique Center, which at a gaping, 122,00 square feet, bills itself as the largest indoor antique mall in the country. Nearby, there are two other huge warehouses just off the highway at the Springfield Antique Center.
The collections make Springfield a great place to get in touch with your past. Let's take a look at the places that are giving Springfield its distinguished antique reputation.
Springfield Antique Show & Flea Market
This market, which is located off I-70 at exit 59 in Springfield, has been held nine times a year at the Clark County Fairgrounds for more than four decades. You'll find local and regional merchants selling what they like to collect, as well as homemade crafts and some true collectible gems.
Brenda Brewer, of Marion, was selling Americana collectibles at a booth inside a building on the fairgrounds with her brother Matt Brewer.
"It's finding your niche and finding what you like to sell," she said. "People know that they can come to Springfield and find a bargain of some sort."
Twice a year the antique show and flea market morphs into a huge, three-day event that draws dealers and customers from across the United States. Some 2,000 merchants spread out their wares among a dozen buildings and across the fairgrounds for the event that's equally attractive to collectors, dealers and everyday shoppers.
This year's spring Extravaganza is scheduled for May 14-16, and the late summer show will take place Sept. 17-19.
Chris Schutte, executive director of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Extravaganza is known far and wide. As a former antique dealer while living in South Carolina, he said he often "filled up a truckload" of goods at the Springfield show before heading back home.
"I've met antique dealers from around the world, and when I mentioned Springfield, they'd say, 'the Extravaganza.' It's a big deal."
It doesn't take long for the action to heat up. The event begins Friday at 7AM, and Schutte said a lot of horse trading goes on between the dealers. Hotels in and around the city typically sell out for the event, Schutte said.
"Those are for the attendees. The vendors, they'll sleep everywhere from the hotels to in their trucks. Everybody looks at it as a multiday thing."
Heart of Ohio Antique Center
Martha Stewart Magazine once called this antique barn at I-70 exit 54 "one of America's best resources for antiques." Spanning nearly three acres, it's certainly a large one. It has earned a solid reputation as a major draw for collectors since Springfield native Bruce Knight established it in the late 1990s.
Step inside and you'll find more than 1,400 booths and showcases jammed full of antiques and collectibles of many types. There are collections of vintage toys, furniture, old tins, beer memorabilia, signs, pottery, jewelry, vending machines and much more. Waltz down one aisle and you'll find a collection of classic papier-mâché Halloween baskets, some with an asking price north of $1,000. Peruse other locales, and you'll find an 1800s-era coffee grinder, a collection of historic political buttons, or old, cast iron horse toys.
The enormity can be overwhelming, so if you find you're staying longer than you'd intended, step up to the window at Mojo's Café, which offers hot coffee and daily, scratch-made lunch specials.
In warm weather, an outdoor area offers patio furniture, statuary and architectural items which, like the collectibles inside, can be shipped worldwide.
Heart of Ohio is open every day except Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Springfield Antique Center
This 75,000-square-foot space, covering two buildings just off the county fairgrounds exit, boasts some of the best antique hunting in Ohio. It opened in 1994 and offers 750 dealers providing a bevy of merchandise.
We found a surprising variety of goods, including ashtrays, candle sticks, vases, pocket knives, lighters, alarm clocks, dinnerware, coins toys, Depression glass, old beer steins and many more items of interest. It's a delight to stroll the aisles and peer into the past.
It's a pet-friendly location, and both buildings are wheelchair accessible. Like the other center, it's open 362 days a year.
NOTE: Check directly with places before you go to learn about their health guidelines, safety updates and any required reservations.