We are at a hiatus between two of the most important weekends for thousands of people in the area.

We are at a hiatus between two of the most important weekends for thousands of people in the area. This weekend was the fort's huge yard sale with some 1,000 military families unloading items they no longer care to haul around.

And next weekend is the semi-annual combined flea market at Sparks and White Cloud, Kan. That one kicks off on Thursday and runs till Sunday, or until sellers have had all the fun they can stand and pack up and leave.

According to an unchecked source, this will be the 81st year for the White Cloud flea market, which is sponsored by the American Legion in White Cloud. I'm not sure how long one has been at Sparks, but it too has been going on for a while.

White Cloud has fewer and fewer sellers each year, and Sparks seems to have more and more. The two differences between the towns is that White Cloud is 10 miles farther from Leavenworth, and Sparks is not a town, but a wide spot in the road with 20 or so buildings.

White Cloud is seemingly all uphill, for even when you reach the top of a hill, you seem to still have to go up to get to the next area. And parking is a bit more of a challenge at White Cloud, but not so much in recent years.

Sparks is all on one level with no hills at all, and plenty of free parking. The only bad news is, if it has rained, the huge field at Sparks becomes a frog pond. I have yet to see an alligator there, but won't be too surprised when I do.

For the hard core shoppers there is plenty of food at both sites. To my sorrow Texas Red, who grilled the best barbecue I believe I ever tasted, has not been at either site for several years. I tried the barbecue wannabes at both places, but they left my taste buds wanting. So last year I switched to a bratwurst, and was not left wanting.

What can a bargain hunter find? Most likely, whatever a bargain hunter is looking for. There are hundreds of seller tables at both places, perhaps a few more at Sparks. Prices are highest early on, and drop quickly as the sale draws to a close.

Most dealers will bargain, some more than others. I've found a few who won't drop a penny, so they are quickly left with their high prices while I wander on. Most would rather sell at a reduced price than lug unsold items home to await the next flea market.

Oh yes, for the uninitiated, how to get there. Simple. Go north on Highway 7, through Atchison, around Troy, and after about an hour or so you'll arrive at Sparks, where the highway takes a hard right.
Some veterans stop at Sparks first, while others go on 10 more miles to White Cloud and work their way back. I've tried it both ways, and found little difference. There are more food vendors at Sparks so hitting it at lunchtime probably makes more sense.

The official dates are May 2-5. Flea market fanciers have had to wait eight long months since the combined September markets, and are primed and ready for a big weekend, whatever day they choose to go.
The wait until the first weekend in September is not so long, and goes by more quickly. So dig out those walking shoes, bust open that piggy bank, and be prepared for a real treat for flea market fanciers. It's been a long, cold winter, and we who love such outings can hardly wait.

The fort yard sales today should leave us juiced up and ready for next weekend, when we have four days for our next venture.
If you get there before I do, don't dare take my reserved parking place!

John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.