What Cheer, Iowa
The Resale Evangelista
Took this picture at a flea market in Iowa. Oh, wait. It wasn’t just any flea market. It was the What Cheer flea market, in What Cheer, Iowa, renowned in years gone by for the What Cheer Opera House, which still stands.
I just like saying “What Cheer”–it’s a great name for a nearly deserted little burg that comes alive three times a year, when the old fairgrounds fill with the trucks, trailers, tents and the decrepit cars of vendors.
The What Cheer Flea Market takes place three times a year. The biggest–and often muddiest–is in the spring, in early May. It’s quite the scene, with dealers getting there early and picking over each other’s treasures.
There’s a lot of trash and, depending on your mood and tastes, probably a lot of treasure. Mostly there’s just a lot.
I’ve gone as a spectator and a vendor. Both experiences were, well, intense. I had fun, but then I blend into crowds.
If you want the best bargains, go late Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, when the dealers are anxious to pack up and go home. Setting up a booth is bad enough; breaking one down after two nights sleeping in your car is hell. The less a dealer has to take home, the better he/she feels.
Rental of a 20×20 outdoor booth is $45. Electricity is a few dollars extra. There’s a kinda camp-like chowhouse that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are bathrooms. Don’t count on getting a hotel room in What Cheer–there aren’t any. A lot of the vendors bring campers, or simply sleep in their booths or cars–it’s that kind of place.
The next dates are: Aug. 1-3 and Oct. 3-5. The gates open at 7 a.m. Admission is $1, a dollar extra for early birds on the market’s first day.