London has its Portobello Road Market, the winding street that leads you up past Notting Hill shops and, on weekends, street vendors hawking their wares. In Paris (France, not Texas), there’s Les Puces (“The Fleas”), the book merchants on the Seine, and the lesser-known street markets like the darling one on Rue Cler.
Closer to home, we’ve got Fredericksburg Trade Days at Sunday Farms. Oh, sure, the name is humble, but then so are the grounds. This is market shopping, Hill Country style, with no place (or need) for worldly airs and graces. So swap out your designer heels with solid boots, comfy chanclas, or a satisfying walking shoe, and let’s head on out to see what they’ve got to tempt us.
One weekend every month (two in November), seven large barns and a collection of smaller sheds, tents, and other buildings along the stretch of Highway 290 between Fredericksburg and Stonewall are opened to the public. All told, there’s a whopping 350-plus vendors represented at most events. For entertainment, the admission price is cheap—provided you can exercise restraint while browsing. (Setting a budget in advance wouldn’t hurt.) Shoppers shell out $5 per vehicle to park, find a spot on a patch of red dirt, and make their way through to the shopping area.
There’s a little bit of everything to be found in the booths. On a recent visit we saw antique holiday decor, cacti, knives, gun holsters (this is Texas, after all), crystal candy dishes, vinyl records, metal gates, old bottles, vintage wedding cake toppers, dozens of painted signs, hand creams made from goat’s milk, and rusty bits and bobs of every size and shape imaginable. Clothes, hats, jewelry, toe rings, and other adornments (yes, even lipstick)—from the collectible to the kitschy—can be found as well.
Almost two centuries ago, German immigrants settled this part of the Lone Star State, bringing with them European folkways and foodways. So is it any surprise that there’s a Biergarten at the trade days? Nein. Burgers, fresh fudge, powdered donuts—all the usual festival and fair foods typical of Texas—are up for sale, too.
What’s noticeably absent, of course, is the bland sameness one encounters in most suburban retailers, those impersonal, cavernous spaces where we tend to spend most of our shopping hours come the weekend. It doesn’t take much eavesdropping at the trade days to discern that shoppers and vendors are, if not actual friends and neighbors, willing to be neighborly to one another while standing alongside used boots, vintage advertising signs, and crates filled with old hardware. Conversations aren’t mandatory but they aren’t discouraged either. We encountered no hard sell when we visited recently, but we did see a cheerful sign with an open invitation to haggle.
The candor was refreshing.
Due to its location just east of Fredericksburg, the event pairs well with side trips to Wildseed Farms, the iconic Luckenbach Dance Hall, LBJ and Lady Bird’s ranch, or the Sauer-Beckmann farm in Stonewall. Care to make a weekend of it and visit a local winery, too? There’s a bed and breakfast nearby. (Come late spring, you can visit a peach stand for some fresh fruit to take home.) Whatever else you opt to do, leave at least two hours to browse the trade days market, longer if you like people watching or being transfixed when sunlight illuminates a piece of European cut glass, reminding you of your Irish great aunts.
Look for more great photos from our visit (with a heavy emphasis on the holidays!) on our Facebook page.
Fredericksburg Trade Days at Sunday Farms
(Third weekends only)
355 Sunday Farms Lane
Fredericksburg, Tx 78624