Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society's Flea-tique returns
It all started in the basement of the Heritage Museum in Tarentum.
An idea for a small fundraiser to benefit the museum. Some antiques were sold at that first Flea-tique, and some money was raised. But, little did anyone realize what the event would look like more than three decades later.
“Within three or four years, they had to find a bigger space,” says Dolly Mistrik, the president of the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society, which runs the museum. “It caught on so fast. That's why we're up at the mine now.”
The event grew so quickly, from a handful of booths to now more than 200, that it had to be moved to Tour-Ed Mine in Fawn. It now runs the third Sunday of the month from May to October and kicks off its 32nd year on May 18.
“Last year, we averaged 225 vendors (per event),” Mistrik says. “We should be at that or above it this year. It's gotten so big, that we had to move into another lot to accommodate all the vendors.”
Vendors pay $25 to set up for the day, and patrons pay a $3 parking fee to attend.
But, what exactly is a Flea-tique?
Patrons shouldn't think they'll be able to buy old cassette tapes at 10 for $1.
The society prides itself in allowing only higher-quality merchandise at the event.
“It's not a garage sale,” Mistrik says. “It's only for antiques and collectibles. There are some good bargains, but this isn't somewhere where you'd go looking for cheap furniture.”
Mistrik does admit that the historical society might break the rules.
“We make them, so we can break them,” she says, with a chuckle. “We have our own booth where we sell things that people donate to the museum that we can't display.
“We sell a lot of old China (dinnerware).”
Because of the nature of what's sold, Mistrik says the idea fits the museum well.
“It's all classic stuff,” she says. “It's stuff that has some historical value.
Because of the size of the Flea-tique, and because of how accommodating organizers are to vendors, don't be shocked to see many sellers from outside the area.
Far outside the area, actually.
“We have people come from New York, New Jersey, Maryland,” Mistrik says. “We actually have two vendors who come all the way in from Florida. They like selling here so much, they wouldn't miss it.”
On top of the neat and, sometimes, valuable items folks will find at the Flea-tique — they won't be going home hungry.
Food vendors will sell a variety of items, including fresh local produce and sweet treats.
Mistrik says that while Flea-tique is loads of fun for all involved, it serves a bigger purpose.
“This is our biggest fundraiser for the year,” she says. “This is what keeps our Heritage Museum open. I can't begin to describe how much we depend on it.”
Mistrik says the museum needs the Flea-tique so much, that Mother Nature can have a hand in how the museum operates every year.
“We can withstand one (Flea-tique) rain day,” she says. “But, if we have two, we're going to be pushing it.
“I don't even want to think about what would happen with more than that.”
R. A. Monti is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.