When Beki Hastings first invited the public to her family’s farm near Hesston for a sale, she had some trouble getting across the idea that it wasn’t a big yard sale. There would be no rummaging through stacks of children’s clothing.
“Kansans weren’t familiar with the idea of a barn sale,” she said.
She had to show them. In 2010, she invited 20 vendors to her 6-acre former hog farm about 30 miles northwest of Wichita. She sold her own custom hand-stamped jewelry, and each of the exhibitors set up around her big, red barn sold handmade and vintage goods – “rust, junk or art,” in Hastings’ words.
Word from the 500 visitors who showed up that year spread, and attendance quadrupled by the third sale. Last year, the Kansas Barn Sale topped 5,000 shoppers. “We’ve heard people say coming to our barn sale is like having their Pinterest boards come to life,” Hastings said.
This year’s event is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 4 near Hesston. The exact address and directions for the sale are posted a few days before the event at kansasbarnsale.com. The entry fee is $2 for anyone 12 or older, with a portion of the entry fees donated to ICT S.O.S. and Youth Horizons of Wichita. Vendor space has maxed out at 100, and Hastings said she expects more visitors as the barn sale concept is no longer a mystery.
“Last year we had a line of shoppers a quarter-mile long waiting when we opened,” she said, adding that the nearest hotel filled with out-of-state visitors last year, and she’s heard of returning shoppers who already have their airline tickets purchased. “If you want the best junk and the best pickin’, get here early in the day. If you’re coming for atmosphere and entertainment, the crowds are a little thinner later in the day.”
Hastings said the appeal of her annual event is two-fold: a strict focus on handmade arts/crafts and antiques and an atmosphere that can’t be replicated in an events center.
She spends nearly eight months gearing up for the once-a-year sale. “Our show is juried, so you’re not going to see average vendors – it’s the best of the best,” Hastings said. “And we have a variety: metal, jewelry, woodwork, repurposed furniture, barn wood, old windows and a lot of rusty junk from farm auctions.”
While the event has been popular for girlfriend getaways, Hastings has been careful to include activities – food prepared by a local Mennonite church, live music, a bonfire, plenty of seating – to attract entire families.
“The sale is all outdoor, it’s on private property, and it’s set up in front of our big, red barn,” she said. “With the fall weather, we get a perfect atmosphere that gives the whole day a fall festival vibe.”
In Whitewater, about 30 miles north of Wichita, Kerry Wiebe and her family put on two barn sales every year in April and October. The fall sale is scheduled for Oct. 11 (facebook.com/KerielDairy) and includes about 20 vendors upstairs in the hayloft and more vendors outside selling arts, crafts, antiques and edibles like homemade pies, honey and pure maple syrup. Wiebe, who blogs at IMarriedAMilkman.com, started the sales several years ago to supplement her family’s farming income from Keriel Dairy.
“The milkman smokes pork for pulled pork sandwiches, makes his homemade pasta salad, and I make 1,000 cupcakes in five flavors,” Wiebe said. “Since we are a working dairy, we have baby calves out front and center for everyone to see and touch. It is a fun day on the farm.”
If you go
Regional crafts shows
Fall is a popular time for arts and crafts shows. Here is a list, in chronological order, of regional events to consider.
Sept. 18-20, Autumn Daze Arts, Crafts & Music Festival, Branson, Mo. The 41st annual event includes a juried show in historic downtown Branson featuring more than 100 crafters and artists from across the Midwest. Shoppers will find a wide variety of items, including collectibles, wood crafts, ironworks, quilts, jewelry, crocheted and knitted items, with many vendors demonstrating their techniques. downtownbranson.org/autumn-daze
Sept. 19-21, Plaza Art Fair, Kansas City, Mo. This is one of the longest-running art events (82 years) in the nation and attracts a crowd of 250,000 during three days. Shoppers will find 240 artists offering ceramics, jewelry, photography and more from across the country encompassing nine blocks of the Country Club Plaza. countryclubplaza.com/event/plaza-art-fair
Sept. 20, Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair, Hillsboro Taking place since 1970, this juried festival covers a seven-block area in downtown Hillsboro with 300 vendors from 15 states and more than 40,000 shoppers. The event has been rated among the top 100 arts and crafts shows in the country by Sunshine Artist magazine. hillsboroartsandcraftsfair.org
Sept. 20, Art in the Park, Marion While in the Hillsboro area, travel 12 miles east to neighboring Marion for its event on the same day and featuring another 250 vendors. marionks.com/artinthepark.php
Sept. 27, Whimmydiddle Arts and Crafts Fair, Scott City One of the largest crafts shows in western Kansas, this event features 200 exhibitors from across the U.S. who arrive with original art, metal working, pottery and crafts in wood, fabric, jewelry, silk and dried flowers. whimmydiddle.org
Sept. 27-28, Fair Grove Heritage Reunion, Fair Grove, Mo. Located 14 miles north of Springfield, Fair Grove’s annual event brings 30,000 to a historical site that has been restored as one of only two working “steam-powered” grist mills in the U.S. The two-day Heritage Reunion includes old-time demonstrations and a parade, along with 300 juried vendors featuring handmade crafts. fghps.org/heritage-reunion.html
Oct. 4, Art in the Park, Winfield Barnwood signs, photography, paintings, stained glass, jewelry – shoppers will find a variety of local and regional artists’ booths at this annual juried arts and crafts show in the town’s Island Park. This year is the 40th edition of the event sponsored by the Winfield Arts & Humanities Council. winfieldarts.com/art-in-the-park.html
Oct. 10-12, Summit Art Festival, Lee’s Summit, Mo. This is a fine-art event held just outside Kansas City in Lee’s Summit, named as Missouri’s 2010 Creative Community by the Missouri Arts Council. More than 100 recognized national, regional and local artisans represent most art mediums. summitartfest.org
Oct. 11-12, Sugar Mound Arts & Crafts Festival, Mound City Now in its 43rd year, this event has grown from displaying art by Linn County artists in the 4-H building to more than 400 booths using every building at the fairgrounds to display all types of handcrafted items from local, regional and national artists. The festival attracts 10,000 to this town of about 700. sugarmoundartscrafts.com
Oct. 16-19, War Eagle Fair, Hindsville, Ark. With a daily crowd of 60 to 80,000 visitors, this is the premier arts and crafts fair in the Ozarks. More than 250 booths are set up on a large fairgrounds along the banks of the War Eagle River in remote northwest Arkansas, offering everything from furniture and kitchen tools to folk art and jewelry. Since 1954, the No. 1 rule at War Eagle Fair has been: handmade. wareaglefair.com
Oct. 24-26, An Affair of the Heart, Oklahoma City What started as a one-day show in 1985 has expanded to two three-day shows every year in Oklahoma City and Tulsa featuring antiques, collectibles and handmade items. The Oklahoma City edition is at State Fair Park, where 800 exhibitors (local and national crafters, artisans, boutique owners and collectors) from 30 states make this one of the largest crafts shows in the southwest U.S. The Tulsa show is Nov. 21-23. anaffairoftheheart.com