Each year I tell myself I'm not going to write another column about the event today's column is about since I've written about it more years than I can remember.
But shortly before deadline for Labor Day or Memorial Day, someone tells me "Oh, I'm so glad you wrote about the big flea markets at White Cloud and Sparks. I love flea markets and we recently arrived, and a friend told me about your column, and I went. Thank you."
A collective you're welcome to all readers out there who don't know about what is reputed to be, combined, the tenth largest flea market in these whole United States.
White Cloud is the most northeastern town in Kansas, and not on all maps. More than 75 years ago members of the local American Legion there decided to hold a bi-annual flea market, and it's been going reasonably strong ever since.
In the early 1980s entrepreneurs near even tinier Sparks, Kansas, decided to hold a market the same weekend as White Cloud, so bargain seekers get two for the price of one. Since neither has an admission charge, bargain seekers get two for nothing.
In recent years White Cloud has been hosting fewer and fewer sellers, and Sparks more and more. I'm not sure the reasons why, but since folks going from this area have to pass through Sparks to get to White Cloud, it doesn't seem to matter which is larger.
There is plenty of free parking at both sites, and lunches galore at both. Two big plusses for Sparks are it is 10 miles closer to Leavenworth, and as flat as western Kansas. At White Cloud, seemingly no matter which direction a shopper goes, it is uphill.
I've seen no advertisements for either, but am told by a confidential informant that the official days are Aug. 29-31 and Sept. 1st for Sparks. He had no information about White Cloud. It is the bargain seeker's choice what day to go. The selection is better the first day or two, but prices are higher.
Many years ago a seller had a table full of WW II magazines priced at $5 each. I asked if he would make me a deal on several, and he said "If you want a deal, come back Sunday. Any still left then will be fifty cents each."
That sort of gave me an impromptu economics lesson I remember to this day. And I've never gone back for the last day in hopes an overpriced item is still available and cheap.
Ah yes, how to get there. Go north toward Atchison on Highway 7. Road improvements the last few years have cut several miles off the trip, and as you get closer White Cloud is advertised. It has to be the smallest town in America with big signs on the highway to it.
Page 2 of 2 - Highway 7 makes a sharp right turn at Sparks, and if you aren't aware you are at a flea market as you drive by, I recommend a trip to an eye doctor pronto. Signs direct shoppers to the free parking, which is a frog pond after a rain.
White Cloud is 10 miles north of Sparks and the road parallels the river, making it a rather scenic drive. You'll know it when you get to White Cloud also. A lot of folks from this area go to White Cloud first and hit Sparks on the way back, while others do the opposite.
I shouldn't have to tell readers to wear comfortable clothing and good walking shoes. I've not met a dealer yet who won't take a check, and a few take credit cards. All take cash.
There is one guarantee: Avid flea market buffs will have a most enjoyable day. If you can't find something of interest at either place, you must not be looking very hard. One post-market article said some 75,000 people were estimated at Sparks a couple of years ago. Have fun, and perhaps I'll see you there. But more likely, our paths won't cross.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.