Collecting 12.03.2010

Ballarat Antique Fair: Push Comes to Shove

Ballarat Antique FairThe Ballarat Antique fair is now over and those lucky enough to attend were presented with some wonderful wares of sellers from across Australia. What are my memories of this event?

Well, let’s just say I have the bruises to last a lifetime. Read on for a breakdown of the event….

Me holding my arm up and taking a photo of the over-crowding. Note the air conditioning.

The good Lady K and I left early on Saturday morning to get there early enough and enjoy the event without being pressured by the larger post-lunch crowd. There was also a storm brewing of epic proportions about to rattle Melbourne to the ground and we wanted to avoid that as much as possible as well. The drive was a good 1.5 hours out of Melbourne and it takes a dedicated collector to travel for that long! Following this logic, I expected a decent turn out, but nothing like what we were presented with.

Venue
Hosted in the Ballarat Badminton Centre, one must travel around the outskirts of Ballarat (quite a sizeable town for a place so far from the city – due to the 1851 gold rush) and the first flaw in this venue is that there were no signs, save for a very small one stuck underneath the third entry into Ballarat. Since the move from the centre of town several years ago to the Badminton Centre, there has been little in the way of good signage letting the unwitting collector know where to travel to. Originally, I would bumble through the first (and primary entry) into Ballarat and noodle through the town until I found the venue. This time, I knew and went directly in (it’s the 3rd entry for anyone going next year).

The second problem with the venue is parking. It’s in the suburban/industrial outskirts of the city and being a Badminton Centre, you’re also at the mercy of the people playing sports at all the surrounding venues. One must drive and keep looping through streets to find a decent park.

The third problem is the size. As large as the Badminton Centre is, it’s hardly big enough to accommodate row upon row of antique dealers. The crush of people and the chaos that can cause is remarkably similar to a rock concert, but without a central focus of a stage, everyone is trying to shift from dealer to dealer and barrelling into one another.

And finally, the fourth problem is the lack of proper air conditioning. The first time I went to this venue, there was no solution other than fans on the floor. For a country town and a time of year where 30 degree Celsius weather is quite common, the lack of foresight to keep the antiques (myself included) cool, temperature controlled made forcing my way through the aisles unbearable after 45 minutes. My heart really went out to the dealers who had to put up with that for 3 days straight. There is a rudimentary air conditioning that flows through plastic tubes in the roof (see pictures), but that provides less relief than fanning oneself with the program they give you at the door.

First aisle of the fair.

Crowds
Now, this should have been anticipated, but I didn’t expect it to be quite like this. We did arrive a little after the doors opening and there was a decent sized que snaking out of the entrance. Running to beat the approaching throng, Lady K and I waiting patiently for some time for entrance. That wasn’t so bad, however, I’m used to waiting for things, but the firm push into the venue between other patrons was rather uncomfortable and when I finally saw the mammoth over-crowding, the idea to turn around and exit did flash through this collector’s mind.

The crowds at the rows near the entrance were so crowded that there was almost little point in trying to fight for a viewing of the cabinets. Many I either waited at to get my turn of glancing at some jewellery and many more I simply walked past. In the end, it came down to the first sight of whatever item (jewellery or otherwise) drawing me in and making a decision on wether I should even bother moving in to see more. Overall, the crowds cost me a proper viewing of about 40% of the dealers, the ones I even did see often provoked a rude push out of the way by a firm handed old lady, but that really is another matter…

Decency Level
Well, I hate to say it, but I haven’t been so rudely handled at an event. I’ve been to many, many events in my time and the ones where you’d expect to be punched, elbowed and shunted have been far kinder to me. Let’s look at some examples:

1. The back punch
As previously stated, I didn’t have any time to be arbitrary in my viewing of things, I had to make a cold, logical decision as to where I was going and what I was looking for. Any fancy of picking up an old clock or some Victorian silver (or any other miscellaneous item) was thrown out the window.
The good Lady K and I were moving along one of the more slower aisles (plenty of room to get around!) and she was to my left. After a moment, I felt sharp hits to my back. At first, I thought that K had fallen behind a little and was indicating I should look at something, but I looked to my left and she was there. Behind me and to the right was a fierce looking octogenarian furiously punching me in the back with a scowl on her face. As I stated, there was more than enough room to pass if one needed to. I stopped, pulled myself to the side and watched her hobble past, continuing her scowl. It was only a few more steps on our part until she was quite successfully blocking the two of us.

2. The elbow and head swipe
It had been a lot of time since I saw her, but I was rather close to a dealer at one stage, I even designed her business cards. She’s an older lady and was quite interested in my collecting habits, a nice person. The Lady K and I happened to meet her again on Saturday in less than civil circumstances.
We were waiting for our turn to view the jewellery in the cabinet below, spending a good two minutes to politely wait for an opening between patrons. Finally, we found a nice spot where it looked like mourning jewels where and then this charming, well built lady uses her body weight to break the non-gap between Lady K and myself apart. Using her elbow, she wedges it directly into Lady K’s ribs and forces her out of the cabinet’s line of sight. Before I could recover from the shock, a bullish head swipes into the small gap between my face and the glass cabinet, effectively making me face-plant the back of her head. Another push from her weight and I was out of the running to see any jewels at that cabinet, she had effectively monopolised the entire area with K and I looking at each other in stunned silence. We moved around the cabinet and, low and behold, it was that same very woman I had known all those years ago. Never get in between a bargain hunting dealer and her prey, they can smell the fear on you.

All in all, I was shoved, pushed, punched and nearly head-butted by a collection of people who you’d think (at those ages) would understand something of the social graces. When all was said and done, I was actually quite happy to get out of there, I wasn’t in the mood to fight for a viewing or cause any social discomfort, I simply wanted to have a nice morning of buying some lovely items. Unfortunately, the rudeness, the crowds and the heat expedited my exit with great haste.

Spoils of War
Was it all doom and gloom, Hayden? I hear you cry. No, not at all, I did get a fab bracelet from it and I’ll show that in another post!