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Barrie Automotive Flea Market 'really is a place of memories'

'You can buy anything online nowadays, but it’s the camaraderie and meeting face to face and having a conversation about what you’re buying or anything else,' owner says

For almost a half a century, the Barrie Automotive Flea Market has been the place to show off your car, shop and meet up with old friends.

The 49th annual market started Thursday at Burl's Creek Event Grounds, located south of Orillia on Line 8 in Oro-Medonte Township, and will run until Sunday.

And there are more than just cars for guests to shop for.

Barrie Automotive Flea Market owner-operator Linda Groves took our reporter on a golf-cart tour of the massive event.

“Everybody has a golf cart; you need it to get around,” Groves said. “This space is just so big, you’d never be able to get from one end to the other in good time without one.”

Started in 1971 on the grounds of the former Formosa brewery, which became Molson Park and is now Park Place in south-end Barrie, the Barrie Automotive Flea Market came to Burl’s Creek in 1983 with the goal of bringing together car enthusiasts and those looking to sell vehicle-related items.

It has grown to include vendors selling everything from car parts to clothing to home décor.

“It was started by Don Haney and a car club, but when that club grew, they needed more space,” said Groves, who is Haney’s widow. “All these thousands of vendors you’ll see here this weekend are here because of a few car guys back in the ‘70s, when you think about it.”

Haney died nearly two years ago and it was important for Groves to keep the event going strong and in the family.

Her daughter, Lisa, has taken over many of the day-to-day operations and her son has also gotten into the business.

Groves says the family atmosphere is as important to the vendors and the guests as it is to her.

“You can buy anything online nowadays, but it’s the camaraderie and meeting face to face and having a conversation about what you’re buying or anything else,” she said. “Some of the people here look forward to seeing their camping neighbours all year, or their regular customers each event."

But it's the next generation of car lovers that really puts a glint in her eye. 

“One of my favourite things to see are the kids who would have gotten a couple bucks from mom and dad, running up to them with an item they purchased and are so proud of themselves for doing so," Groves said. 

"It is a huge shopping experience, but it really is a place of memories.”

The Barrie Automotive Flea Market will celebrate 50 years next year and has many things happening until then. There is next year's spring market from June 6-9, 2020 and the second annual event in Bonfield, Ont., which was just started this past June.

It will be a busy year for Groves, but she's looking forward to it.

“I am already working on the 50th anniversary next year and we are planning a big celebration,” she said. “We still have vendors from 49 years ago, which I find very important to who we are. They’re getting old, but we still have some left of the 36 that started here.”

The event is open today and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.. On Sunday, the hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets are $10 per person, $5 for parking and there is a weekend pass for $20. Kids 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.


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Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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