Fun at the flea market
My childhood was split between rummaging through worn-down yard sales and lounging in crowded swap meets abuzz with energy from vendors and bargainers alike. I spent the majority of my weekends in these flea markets, engulfed by the deafening yells of street retailers and the mouthwatering stench of élote. Naturally, I could not ignore the illustrious draw towards the ever-so-coveted Rose Bowl Flea Market, which takes place the second Sunday of every month in Pasadena.
With over 2,500 vendors stretching across over seven densely packed miles of merchants, the Rose Bowl Flea Market attracts tens of thousands of visitors each month. Whether you’re looking for a $35 pair of Doc Martens, an authentic vintage band tee from the 70’s or even a baby mannequin, the Rose Bowl is your go-to marketplace for pretty much anything.
As I neared the stadium, I was greeted by an inordinate amount of cars and traffic conductors cluttering the streets. Luckily, parking was free. The ticket to enter the market itself, however, was weighed down by a hefty $8 price.
Complimentary marshmallow sticks and address books were provided by the gate, along with pamphlets detailing future and past events held at the Rose Bowl. In an attempt to categorize the uncategorized, the market is split into several sections, with the newer merchandise placed in towards the front, and the older vintage items in the back. Due to the strategic placement of vendors, the goods near the entrance of the market typically fall on the more pricey side than those found deep within the labyrinth of setups inside.
Personally, I tend to avoid the retail-priced items that can be easily found at any store and immediately drift towards the center of the market, where the crowds are thinner and items rarer. The center was also comprised of furniture, art and other random knick-knacks. In order to enter the section solely devoted to vintage apparel, I had to cross a small green bridge. Walking in, I was immediately flooded by the seemingly never-ending rows of trademark shoes, Bill Cosby-inspired sweaters and high-waisted shorts, which was overwhelming and invigorating at the same time — I had found my happy place.
The pricing of items is random, but bargaining is entirely welcome. Some vendors are more forgiving than others, while many charge disproportionate sums of money for a supposed “vintage” t-shirt. Not only this, but prices can also vary depending on the time of day that you go to the market. Although all the best items are found during the wee crack of dawn, the best deals are usually made at the end of the day, when the vendors are tired and desperate to sell their load.
Food is also available throughout different areas of the market, along with a miniature food court near the actual stadium. The food is underwhelming and overpriced, yet many continue to flock towards food vendors anyway, driven by the hunger, sweat and exhaustion gained from roaming the market for hours on end. I am personally guilty of purchasing a thirst-quenching watermelon lemonade for a whopping $7, which, at the time, was completely worth it.
Lastly, the Rose Bowl is arguably the most interesting, optimal destination for people watching. It attracts individuals that vary from flamboyant, Japanese designers donned in high-street fashion, to flocks of elderly Portuguese ladies that only travel in groups of 5 or more. The audience is essentially a sample of all types of L.A folks, be it tourists, locals or even the occasional celebrity. The beautiful, the hip, the old, the young, the slightly weird; they’re all here.
In essence, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is virtually a mini-festival experience, with the exception of less music and more shopping. Anything and everything that your heart could desire can be found here — flowy skirts, knock off purses, real purses, succulent plants, original art pieces, patches from old varsity jackets, historic cereal boxes, actual cowboy boots, the list goes on. It is a marketplace that prides itself on diversity and variation, seen not only through the variety of the goods being sold, but also in the people themselves.
By Michelle Feng, Staff writer