Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

At a rural Minnesota flea market, a photo essay June 3, 2019

Flea markets often theme to location. At the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market, you’ll find a lot of agricultural merchandise.


LONG BEFORE RECYCLING, upcycling and repurposing emerged in popularity, hand-me-downs existed. Clothing, furniture and more passed down from person to person. Especially among farm families. Ask my sister and she will tell you about my horrible fashion sense and how she had to wear the bad choices I made in clothing. She followed me in birth order.



Fast forward to today and I still appreciate previously-used items. I don’t need the latest fashion off the rack because I still don’t much care about fashion. Give me jeans and a t-shirt.





I prefer sturdy, well-crafted furniture to new. I like vintage drinking glasses, bowls, tablecloths, art… I prefer vintage stuff to new. I appreciate the craftsmanship, the novelty, the memories, the uniqueness.



For those reasons, I delight in flea markets, garage and yard sales, and thrift stores. I don’t shop them as often as I once did because I really don’t need more stuff. Even so, it’s fun to poke around.





To filter through the odd and practical merchandise. The memories.


Crafted by J & J Glass Art (Jeff & Jane Peterson) of Austin.




To appreciate the work of artisans.






To chat with the vendors.



Here in Minnesota, pop-up second-hand shops—the term seems fitting for all those garage and yard sales and flea markets—have launched for the season.



If you’ve never embraced second-hand, I’d suggest you reconsider. Maybe you’ll develop an affinity for this alternative shopping option. Or maybe you’ll decide you want nothing to do with the current trend.






Whatever your perspective, enjoy my photo essay of the spring Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market held in rural Dundas on Memorial Day weekend. Let this inspire you to think beyond new, to consider the value in previously-owned.



TELL ME: Do you shop second-hand? If yes, why and what treasures have you discovered?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “At a rural Minnesota flea market, a photo essay”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    So many treasures. I absolutely love the picture of the two men sitting on the gate of the pickup truck. My kind of guys. And yes–I do shop second hand and have for a very long time. Always on the lookout for teapots. 🙂

  2. Washe Koda Says:

    Neat! Thanks for sharing this 🙂 I miss those markets in Minnesota. Seemed like there was one in various communities every weekend somewhere all summer long. I sold a lot of old family memories that there was no room for in Isle (south shore of Miille Lacs) during their 4th of July festivities. And of coarse there are treasures ya just can’t live without you load up and take back home 🙂

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    I like to shop thrift stores. It’s like a treasure hunt. Someone’s discards is someone else’s treasure.

  4. Bella Says:

    Flea market shopping is big in the Up North Country. You can always find something interesting and woven into the tables scattered about are new products and upcycled items.
    I loved your sentence..it says it all.
    I prefer vintage stuff to new. I appreciate the craftsmanship, the novelty, the memories, the uniqueness.

  5. Love the souped up Radio Flyer. I own quite a few second-hand pieces. I have upcycled some frames for art and photography. I have even purchased and refurnished some nice wood furniture pieces. A good can of spray paint is key to have on hand (i.e. do not like a color of something, but like the design maybe consider spray painting it (so many spray paint options now)). Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  6. Old Pyrex mixing bowls. My favorite for baking. I love sticking my nose into old stores and buying second hand items.
    Saves the environment and is sometimes even better than new.

  7. There used to be a lot of flea markets here in NYC 25-30 years ago. They were great. Got great deals on furniture, camera equipment. Sadly they’re all gone.

  8. Looks like my kind of place! I love this kind of thing. ❤

  9. walter- Says:

    I have a weakness for second-hand sales, especially for tools, metal objects and out-of-circulation coins. Sometimes I have walked among the items offered and did not buy. Maybe trying to stop my compulsive purchase. (jokingly)

  10. Gunny Says:

    Aaah, the picture of the Northwest Airlines sticker brought back childhood memories. The plane shown had a military version. The KC-97. I crawled through those ever time they had an air show. So many treasure and I have so little space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.