LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Since 1976, every Labor Day weekend, the Kentucky Flea Market welcomes visitors and vendors from all over for its 4-day flea market event at the Kentucky Expo Center. However, the first Kentucky flea market ever held was in 1973, according to Terry Stewart, whose parents started the business. This Labor Day weekend, the Kentucky Flea Market attracted about 700 vendors.
Kathy Brickley was one of over 700 vendors at the Kentucky Flea Market over Labor Day weekend.
“If I like it, I can sell it. That’s my motto,” she told Spectrum News 1.
However, she was the only vendor out of over 700 at the Kentucky Flea Market who has been here from the start.
“The first show was Dec. 1973,” Brickley said.
The 81-year-old was 32 years old back then, but what she sells now is the same as what she sold at her first flea market, which is a mix of antique and vintage glassware, jewelry, and figurines.
Brickley told Spectrum News 1 she didn’t plan on selling antiques as a career. She attended her first flea market to sell items after a friend, who collected glassware made during the Great Depression, asked Brickley to buy some for her if she came across any.
“So I bought it, and I got home and called her, and she came over, and she said, ‘Well that’s really nice, but I really don’t think I want it right now.’ So I thought, ‘Well I guess I better go out and sell it.’ So that started me. Now, that’s the way I really started in this,” Brickley said.
Louisville resident Terry Stewart, his son, and brother run Stewart Productions, which puts on the Kentucky Flea Market, but Stewart told Spectrum News 1 his parents started the family’s flea market business.
“I was really young. I was 17 years old, and I was bringing all these dirt covered glass bottles home, and my dad said well, ‘We’ve got to figure out a way for you to sell this.’ So he came out here in 1973 and started the flea market,” Stewart explained.
The first Kentucky Flea Market has about 175 booths, Stewart added, and at the peak there were 2,000 vendors, which was before the pandemic. Now, he said, the Kentucky Flea Market attracts 600 to 700 vendors.
In 1976, Labor Day weekend was added to the flea market schedule. Currently, the Kentucky Flea Market runs five times per year, with New Year’s and Labor Day weekend being the biggest events.
“There was a casket with real bones in it that we had to have removed. There’s been some strange things,” Stewart said, regarding one of the strangest items ever for sale over the decades.
Stewart said he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Brickley told Spectrum News 1 she feels the same.
“The time has passed so fast. It seems like it can’t possibly be that many years I have been out here,” Brickley laughed.
If she could turn back time, Brickley said she would do this all over again.
The Kentucky Flea Market is hosted five times a year at the Kentucky Expo Center. The event will be the Christmas-themed Kentucky Flea Market, which runs Dec. 9-11, 2022. Brickley told Spectrum News 1 she will be there with her antiques plus some ornaments for sale, too. You can find a full schedule with details here. Admission is always free.