Joe Schulz displays the items he found at the Princeton Flea Market, the majority of which were Green Bay Packers related. submitted photo
by Joe Schulz
The coronavirus continues to affect everyday life in the United States, but you wouldn’t know it if you drove through Princeton on a Saturday morning.
That’s because Princeton’s Famous Flea Market returned from hiatus July 18.
Cars lined South Fulton Street and traffic was backed up near Princeton City Park. Inside the park, vendors were spaced apart and folks wandered from stand to stand. Many vendors wore masks and about half of the attendees did as well.
I donned a mask and attended the inaugural flea market of the year, determined to find $40 worth of hidden treasure.
As I strolled through the park, I noticed the variety in items being sold. There was everything from homemade salsa to snowshoes.
One of the first booths that caught my attention was a stand selling hand-painted wooden signs.
From a distance, the signs almost looked like something you’d find in Target — except the ones in the store probably only say, “Live, Laugh, Love.”
As I approached the stand, however, I noticed that these signs weren’t your typical chain retail store home decor. I saw Mary Krahn, a yearly vendor at the flea market, sitting in the middle of the stand, painting a small piece of wood.
I began inquiring about the signs, and she immediately recognized me from The Green Laker, saying, “You’re Joe.”
She explained that each sign is custom made by her and her husband, Steve. Steve cuts each piece of wood to her specifications and then she decorates the wood and paints a custom message on it.
Many of the wooden decorations have a space for someone’s name. If a customer purchases a sign with space for a name, Mary will paint the customer’s name right there at the flea market.
“I’ve loved painting since I was a little girl, and I used to teach painting classes too,” she said. “Throughout the years, we’ve had our signs in about 18 different craft stores in the state.”
After our conversation, I browsed her selection of hand-crafted signs; many had beer cans attached, with funny phrases.
I picked one that read, “It only takes one beer to get me drunk, I just can’t remember if it’s the 13th or 14th.”
What’s more Wisconsin than that?
As I went up to pay, Mary explained that she recognized me from the pages of The Green Laker and wanted to make me happy.
That was an amazing feeling. Thank you, Mary. That was hands down, the most touching moment that I’ve experienced since starting at The Green Laker. Those words made me feel like I was doing my job as the reporter for The Green Laker by writing about fun things in the community during uncertain times.
After I left that booth, I wandered the park, stopping to look through a collection of books. Eventually something else caught my eye.
I noticed a Green Bay Packers cribbage board. At first I thought that I may pass on it, but then I remembered all of my fond memories of growing up and playing cribbage with my mom and grandma.
I purchased the cribbage board, and I’m planning to give it to my dad for his man cave, which is a Packers bar in his basement that is decked out in memorabilia.
The vendor said she got the cribbage board at an estate sale and that she was glad it was going to get a good home.
After finding the cribbage board, I continued to peruse the market before I saw the most ironic item for sale: A President Trump troll doll. While I didn’t purchase the doll, it gave me a good chuckle before moving on.
I inevitably found another piece of Green Bay Packers merchandise that I liked, a homemade coaster picturing a player doing the Lambeau Leap.
Suzi Smith, who made the coaster, explained that it was designed from a piece of tile, with the picture glued on with linoleum spray adhesive.
“It’s pretty toxic stuff, so I make sure I have good ventilation when I’m gluing,” she said.
I thought the image looked familiar, and then she explained that the image was from Miller Lite’s official NFL team illustration campaign.
At that point, I had $25 left. I figured I would cut my losses and head out for the day.
As I was leaving the market, however, one final piece of Packers memorabilia caught my eye: a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl 31 hat.
I quickly spent my last $25 on that piece of NFL history. After the purchase I chatted with the vendor, Margaret Lange, who sold it to me.
Each summer, Lange and her husband, Tom, rent a permanent spot at the flea market, where they sell treasures found at yard sales, garage sales, estate sales, auctions and other flea markets.
Lange tries to have a variety of items that appeal to both men and women, ranging from yard ornaments to snowshoes.
“What we really enjoy is when someone comes along and loves an item that we found and has a plan for it,” she said. “It’s just so much fun for us.”
When the market was on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lange missed the weekly interactions with customers and the sense of community formed between vendors.
Overall, I had a lot of fun at the Princeton Flea Market. It’s a place where you can find almost anything your heart desires.
The vendors are all friendly, welcoming and willing to tell you the story behind anything you purchase.