Author: Katherine Lonsdorf
It’s a Sunday morning and parking at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena is packed. Cars line up on the grass, makeshift row after makeshift row, people eager to join the crowd. But this isn’t the typical football loving, jersey-wearing, hotdog-chowing mob. Instead of foam fingers, these people sport tote bags. They lug carts brimming with knick-knacks instead of coolers filled with beer. Their uniform is vintage, their cheer bargain, and their strategy banter. They are here for sport, wearing comfortable walking shoes and loose fitting clothing, and the competition is fierce.
They are bargain-hunters on a mission – and today, the flea market at the Rose Bowl is their ultimate shopping arena.
Sprawling across the massive parking lot and winding around the stadium, the flea market is advertised as “the best treasure hunt in the country,” and that’s hard to contest. Setting up on the second Sunday of every month, the flea market has a huge variety of some of the best deals around with over 2,500 different vendors and an average crowd of 20,000-plus shoppers. Open to the public as early as 5 a.m. and running until around 3 p.m., it’s a great place to go for the laid back observer and the high-powered antique enthusiast alike.
Filled with nearly every item imaginable, describing the flea market in words is a difficult task, one that ultimately will not do it justice. Even still, here’s a sample: walls of vintage concert posters and metal signs, boxes of used license plates, imported African drums and masks, bunches of glass beads lumped on tables, exotic hanging orchids, cases upon cases of jewelry (silver or gold, pearls, gaudy or refined), racks filled with vintage threads-from Burberry to military, worn-in cowboy boots, Buddha statues from Katmandu, stark 70’s furniture next to ornate Victorian chandeliers.
That’s just the first row.
Satisfying your appetite for food as well as junk is easy-especially since junk-food happens to be the main fare. Carnival-like stands are widespread, selling soft pretzels and hotdogs, cheese on a stick (don’t ask), French fries, kettle corn, and candy-coated almonds. There’s even a booth boasting a “Fix your own Bloody Mary” sign, although I’m not sure what that entails. Vendors offer food as well, with homemade canned goods, honey, various jerky, seasoned crackers and nuts. One guy was selling 20 kumquats for a dollar, a huge brimming basket among his eclectic vintage collection, but that didn’t seem to be as common.
As far as prices go, you should bring money for both admission and shopping (bring all of it in cash; plastic will do you no good here.) Admission prices drop as the day wears on as the best deals tend to be found in the morning. Early bird “VIPs” pay $20 from 5am-7am, $15 from 7am-8am, and $10 from 8am-9am, with the general flat rate of $7 kicking in from 9am-3pm. How much cash you carry after that is up to you, depending on your own desires. $40 would get you fairly far, as long as you’re not looking for that perfect antique armoire or a vintage Versace dress.
And remember, flea markets are all about bargaining; you are expected to heckle. Don’t be obnoxious, but “only having $15” when the price is $20 will work 90% of the time.
The Rose Bowl flea market only runs once a month, on the second Sunday, so it requires some planning ahead. That means, though, that the next one is May 13, which happens to be right after finals. So go de-stress and celebrate the end of the year with a shopping experience that is truly unique to Los Angeles-with exercise, entertainment, and a small sense of adventure as you hunt for bargains with the most veteran hunters around.
For more information on the flea market visit http://www.rosebowlstadium.com/RoseBowl_flea-market.htm or call (323)560-7469.
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