by Bryan Hay
My inexplicable obsession for vintage kerosene lamps, crocks and clocks almost always lead me to Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, a go-to destination for quality antiques.
Whenever I get the itch to hunt for another collectible, the car automatically heads to Renninger’s Farmers Market in Kutztown, where you can also stock up on fresh produce, baked goods, and ring bologna, the foundation of the Pennsylvania Dutch food pyramid.
A family-owned market since opening in 1955, Renninger’s since the mid-1970s, has been equally known for its year-round antique vendors inside the market and its thrice a year Outdoor Antique and Collector's Extravaganza.
Both passionate about primitive items, my wife and I often make a point of hitting one of the events, held in April, June and September, where vendors from all over the country and Berks County come to sell collectibles and bargain with shoppers searching for the perfect accent piece for their collections.
This year’s summertime extravaganza is set for June 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and June 23 and 24 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It’s amazing what you’ll discover among the hundreds of stands sprawled out on the 25 acres behind Renninger’s Farmers Market. The last time we were there, we bought an old wooden rack used to hold shoes coming out the factory — repurposed as a perfect wine rack in our basement — and a bird house imaginatively made from a rusty garden shovel that probably would have otherwise ended up in a trash bin.
You never know what you’ll find, says Jim Renninger Jr., one of the owners of the market, who helps promote the Antique and Collector's Extravaganza.
“It’s like a big community egg hunt for things you collect and decorate with and invest in,” he says. “And it’s about meeting people from all over the world.”
Over the years, Renninger says he has enjoyed observing what types of things people are interested in and how tastes evolve over time. With the popularity of shows about giving old items a second life on networks like DIY Network, people flock to the extravaganza looking for anything that can be recycled or repurposed.
“I’ve seen everything from old car parts to rusty farm equipment getting loaded up in people’s cars,” Renninger says. “There’s a potential idea for a fresh use behind just about everything.”
Taxidermy mounts are always big, and there’s consistent demand for classic primitive Americana such as jelly cupboards, split oak baskets, blanket chests and pie safes, he adds. “We have a lot of fine dealers here in Berks County because it’s a great area for collectibles,” Renninger says. “It was settled a lot earlier than other parts of the country. A lot of families have stayed here and over the generations and accumulated what are now considered highly collectible items, and people come here to buy it and take it elsewhere.”
For me, the added bonus about the extravaganza is the extensive choices of food, found either on the grounds outside or in the main market. A sausage sandwich, a freshly whipped fruit smoothie, a cup of freshly ground coffee — it’s all there to satisfy the foodie side of any antique seeker.
“Good food is part of the tradition,” Renninger says. View more information.