The Germantown Community Flea Market is set to begin its 23rd year. In May 1993, the Germantown Historical Society held the first Flea Market in the MARC parking lot to raise funds for the organization. The Society arranged for the lease of the lot, advertising, insurance, port-a-john, and then rent out spaces for people wanting to sell stuff. This enterprise turned out to be a fantastic success, growing from just two dozen vendors on that first Saturday to more than 160 vendors.
In 1996, the Flea Market moved to the lot behind the UpCounty Regional Services Center at the corner of Germantown Road and Middlebrook Road, then housing the Germantown Library. There they combined forces with the library book sale and the farmers market. Six years later at the end of 2002, realizing they had outgrown that space, they moved the Market back to the newly expanded MARC parking lot at Rt. 118 and Bowman Mill Road.
As the Flea Market grew larger, finding they needed more volunteers and wanting to share the profits, the Germantown Historical Society enlisted the help of the nearby Boyds Historical Society in 2005, and in 2008, the aid of the Menare Foundation, another non-profit located in Germantown. Three years ago the Boyds Historical Society dropped out and was replaced by Boy Scout Troop 325. The Boy Scouts have proved invaluable with their young energy in setting up signs and directing traffic. Today all three organizations share the profits and the hard work.
Weather always plays a part in the activity. Although scheduled for the first Saturday, April through November, this is an open air market and, as a rule, is rained out, at least, one Saturday a season, sometimes more. One day in early April they had to call off the Market because of snow. Setting up in the wee hours of the mornings of April and November in the dark requires heavy coats, gloves, and flashlights. In the summer months, a rogue thunderstorm can send vendors racing to cover their goods with tarps and to seek shelter in their cars, only to pop out again like prairie dogs from their holes when the sun comes out.
Over the years, the hardy volunteers have learned plenty about running a Flea Market from advertising to clean-up. They have had to deal with traffic problems, noncompliant vendors, frantic customers, lost children and trash. It seems that no matter how often you tell some people that they have to take all their empty boxes and broken toys with them, there are always some who leave things behind. Trucking garbage to the dump, sweeping up broken glass and scraping gum off the pavement were not things considered when first venturing on this project, but it is important to these organizations that they leave the parking lots parking clean for the commuters who will use it come Monday.
Is it worth it? From the three organizations comes a resounding YES. Not only do the Flea Markets raise much-needed funding for facility upkeep, educational programming, historic preservation and research, it is also a lot of fun. Greeting returning vendors and patrons, talking to newcomers and long-time residents about the history of the area, searching the booths for unusual objects, and hearing from a customer, “look what I’ve found. I’ve always wanted one of these!” or listening to a local cheerleading squad enthusiastically sing out their cheers, it is all part of the pleasure and appeal of a Flea Market. Participating in a community event and providing a community service is rewarding and satisfying, but even more so if it is enjoyable as well.
According to Elaine Huey who has been volunteering at the events since the beginning, “It isn’t just for selling things. I feel that it’s a meeting place for the community where people can meet neighbors, get together, and often discuss important issues.”
The next Germantown Community Flea Market will take place on Saturday, April 2 from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm at the intersection of Germantown Road/MD Route 118 and Bowman Mill Road. If you want a space you need to get there before 7:00 am. No reservations are needed. Call 301-972-2707 in case of inclement weather.
Caption: The Germantown Community Flea Market.
Photo courtesy Germantown Historical Society.