Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

‘Tis prime secondhand shopping season in Minnesota May 25, 2018

Necklaces for sale at the May 19 Rice County Historical Society Flea Market, Faribault, Minnesota. I took all of the images in this post at the RCHS market.


MANY WOMEN LOVE to shop. I’m not one of them. Filtering through racks of clothing and then trying clothes on is far from my idea of fun. I shop out of necessity. Not for therapy or just because I want something new or for whatever other reason. I suppose if I had unlimited cash flow, I might feel differently. But probably not.



That said, I enjoy shopping at thrift stores, flea markets, and garage and yard sales. I appreciate vintage and unique and keeping rather than tossing.





Most of my original and print art—and I have a lot—comes from these second-hand sources. I’ve also sourced vintage glassware, dishes, tablecloths and more from other people’s junk. I use the word junk in a positive, not trashy, way.




May marks the beginning of secondhand sale season in Minnesota. I took in my first flea market last weekend at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault. While I didn’t buy anything, I poked around and chatted it up with vendors, including one from Minneapolis. I invited him to visit our historic downtown, suggesting specific places to check out. “You should work for the tourism office,” he said. I told him I do through occasional freelance writing and photography.





I am often amazed at how little people still know about Faribault despite strong tourism promotion efforts. With downtown Minneapolis only an hour away to the north along Interstate 35, my community is ideally situated for a day trip into rural Minnesota. Any time I can encourage others to visit Faribault, I will.





This weekend presents another opportunity to check out this section of southeastern Minnesota at the 19th annual Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market. That event runs from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the showgrounds along Minnesota State Highway 3 south of Dundas (which is south of Northfield, north of Faribault). There’s also a consignment auction at 9 a.m. Saturday and a tractor pull at 9 a.m. Sunday. I always find the flea market interesting, photo-worthy and simply a nice way to spend a few hours in a rural setting. Sometimes I find a treasure, sometimes not.

TELL ME: Do you shop flea markets, thrift stores and/or garage/yard sales? If yes, are you looking for something specific? Tell me about a treasure you bought at one of these secondhand sources.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


37 Responses to “‘Tis prime secondhand shopping season in Minnesota”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I do love flea markets and thrift shops but don’t really do garage sales. We have several stores in town that offer vintage items as well and I love to see what moves in and out of those. I look for teapots and interesting items that might make good gifts . You captured some great pictures of treasures at this one for sure!

    • I’m not surprised at your thrifting for teapots. Every time I see a teapot, I think of you.

      I like that you also shop for gifts at thrift shops. I bought my daughter a beautiful hand embroidered floral art piece several years ago at a thrift shop. It hangs in her dining room as a beautiful work of art.

  2. Ruth Says:

    Especially like your fans and thermos still life, Audrey. Shop on!

  3. Ruth Says:

    I enjoy flea markets and yard sales and always buy Pyrex mixing bowls if they are in good shape. The large yellow ones are my favorite!

  4. I really believe in reusing and repurposed items and many I get from sources you mentioned. I have found quality top of the list line brand name camping gear and kayak equipment for way less than new. I am happy, my pocketbook is also happy. Best Buy recently was two therm-o-rest camping mats (new $50-$100) for $1.50 each. They were perfect!

  5. I was a big flea market shopper when I lived in MN. I still have the beautiful antique dresser I bought at a flea market in Elko. Mr. Craves and I when out and about will state “curb alert” when we see a garage sale or even “free” things at the end of someone’s driveway. We recently bought a couple of nice dressers and side tables – cleaned up the dressers and then tried our hand at painting the side tables to our style and turned out great. I like getting out to walk, wander and just explore when it comes to treasures hunting. Happy Exploring – Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  6. Kristin Says:

    Many times, I have gone into the Salvation Army story and found something that I have been wanting. I got a large Oscar de la Renta Wheels suitcase and a long red wool coat. Both in like new condition. In fact most of my coats have come from the Salvation Army. One of the leather coats still had the silica packet in the pocket. Often the things I want are not made anymore and I couldn’t get them anywhere else.

    • Thanks for sharing your finds, Kristin, and welcome to the comments section. What a score on that suitcase and the coats. I, too, enjoy shopping our local Salvation Army. My weakness is art.

      My best find: an original Jose Maria de Servin painting at the Paradise Center for the Art’s recycled art sale.

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    I like the photo of the carving of the owl sitting on a branch. It is the little things that catch the eye that are so fun.

  8. Murphy's Law Says:

    I used to go often to yard sales and flea markets. Then I stopped….not sure why. Definitely going to start again. Why? Living on a SS check makes you very thrifty! And reusing, repurposing never goes out of style.

    Great pictures. I would’ve gotten the (bench?) with the carved owl…..if the price was right! Lol.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

  9. Littlesundog Says:

    We love this type of shopping! We haven’t been in a long time, but whenever we travel we love stopping at shops along the way. Much of our house decor and some furniture is second hand, as is some of our yard tools and deco. We are all about reusing and repurposing!

  10. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    So that’s where I got my McDonald’s mug in the cupboard, wish I had the whole set, they’re fun!

  11. I can not go past a rummage sale or second hand store without seeing
    what’s inside! I’ve found treasures that others may see as junk!
    The best second hand store I’ve been in is called “UNIQUE.” My girlfriend
    brought me there when I was in Minneapolis.
    WOW, what is that turban above?

  12. I LOVE flea markets, thrift stores and the like. I wanna go! 🙂

  13. valeriebollinger Says:

    I was with my friend on our annual antique and thrift shop, gardens and river walk get away. We had great fun in Oshkosh!

  14. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I would love to go thrift store shopping to boost the condition of my kitchen items. My kids have broken too many items and I think that I’d rather replace with used items.

  15. Bella Says:

    You certainly have a good eye for catching the the details in vintage finds. i would have been tempted to buy the wooden owl piece

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