The flea-market phenomenon known as Canton’s First Monday Trade Days dates to the 1850s, when traders brought dry goods , produce, and livestock to sell on the courthouse square.
Today, the event—held on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday BEFORE the first Monday of every month, welcomes hundreds of vendors and thousands of eagle-eyed bargain-hunters—who shop for everything from tractor seats and antiques to mayhaw jelly and needlepoint pillows. We spoke with longtime vendor Ken Perkins, who sells a wide array of items at his booth, Mimi and Pawpaw’s Place, about Canton’s appeal, how it has changed over the years, and the power of diversification.
“My dad used to come over here when I was a kid, in the ‘40s. It got in my blood, I guess. I’ve been setting up at Canton since 1959 or 1960. I sell a little bit of everything—golf clubs, jewelry, antiques, glassware, pocket knives, old guns, tools. I find most of my stuff at garage sales and estate sales in the Dallas area. I’m looking for anything I can make a dollar on.
“In the old days, the market used to be all out in the open. But now most of the booths are under a roof. It’s more commercialized now, and people like it that there’s a place to shop, rain or shine. Everything that has happened to Canton has been for the good of Canton. Before we had the buildings here, if it rained, you were out of luck.
“Of course I do it to make a little money. But a side perk is meeting a lot of different people. You meet so many good people, and they become regular customers. I like to talk to them and learn about their lives. Both of my sons are involved now, and my wife is, too. It’s a family adventure. Like I said, it gets into your blood.”
More on Canton First Monday Trade Days at www.firstmondaycanton.com.