Under the merciless morning sun, shoppers spooned frozen lemonade from paper cups and rifled through plants, taffeta dresses, and animal-themed housewares. To the east, Downtown L.A.’s skyscrapers stood cloaked in the early morning haze of summer smog, welcoming shoppers to the grand opening of the L.A. Flea Market at Dodger Stadium.
The flea market takes place on the fourth Sunday of every month and will host 500 vendors, a food court of food trucks, live music, and V.I.P amenities.
On the L.A. Flea Market’s inaugural day, the gates opened at 9 a.m. and by noon, floods of first-time shoppers and seasoned swap-meet scavengers had arrived at the stadium parking lot.
Rivaling Pasadena’s monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market in size and scope, vendors at Dodger Stadium sold everything from eco-friendly goods to vintage gowns, cowboy boots and antique dressers.
Virginia Gilliam is a regular on the flea market circuit with her booth of assorted collectibles called, “Virginia’s Fashions”. Specializing in African art, vintage jewelry, and assorted other “one-of-a-kind items”, Gilliam began collecting in 1959 in the footsteps of her mother.
“Life is a circle,” Gilliam said, pointing to a pair of cheetah print high heels. “The same clothes you are seeing now, we wore those in the ‘60s.”
Other flea market vendors showcase their own creative pursuits by selling homemade arts and crafts. Feather earrings, flower barrettes, neon bar lights, and specialized dog tags are only a few of the finds at the L.A. market.
Emmit Bynog, a first-time flea market vendor, sold “Pet Canned Cactus”, a creation made from a succulent planted in an aluminum can. These cacti are sold dressed in googly eyes, hats, bandanas, or even a rosary.
From beer cans to soup containers, Bynog and his family have ate or drank every product that a cactus is planted in.
“The Chef Boyardee cans,” Bynog said, “my granddaughter eats those.”
The L.A. Flea Market is Los Angeles-centric, evidenced greatly through the food court created by food trucks. Canter’s Deli served old Fairfax favorites of pastrami sandwiches and matzah ball soup.
Mandoline Grill offered Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches and multiple vegan options. French fries, curries, sushi, shaved ice, exotic ice cream sandwiches, and pizza by the slice were only some of the market’s vast food choices.
While parking is free, tickets for the flea market range from $5 for general entry to $25 for V.I.P passes. The V.I.P. treatment includes early entry at 7 a.m., “V.I.P” restrooms, and a service that totes your purchases to your car for you.
The L.A. Flea Market was created by Philip Dane. Dane founded the Fairfax High Flea Market in 1991, and a rooftop flea market in Hollywood in 2004.
In his newest creation at Dodger Stadium, Dane brings together Los Angeles’ artists, families, hipsters, and environmentalists to showcase the city’s diversity and ingenuity.
Besides the typical flea market assortment of knick-knacks and antiques, the L.A. market has dedicated a section of booths to non-profit organizations. Homeboy Industries, one of Los Angeles’ most notable outfits in helping former gang members, has a row of booths at the market and sold T-shirts, mugs, books and more. Some of the Homeboys also worki as staff members at the event.
The L.A. flea market is kid friendly, with a small area of reserved for childrens games and rides and free admission for kids under 12 years old.
The market was expansive but navigable, even for thrifty beginners.
Janice Rosas had never been to a flea market before, and had no idea there were so many in existence in Los Angeles.
“My favorite part is the inexpensive prices,” Rosas said. “My least favorite is the heat.”
As the day went on and the heat climbed towards the 90s, satisfied shoppers returned to their cars with arms full.
Two women dragged a plastic wagon behind them, overflowing with furniture. A young man struggled down the market’s crowded aisles holding a dresser, as his friend plodded beside him gripping the legs of a coffee table.
Some shoppers wandered the aisles, pushing strollers or holding hands while browsing diverse goods. Others, like Rafael Gritzewsky, were on a mission for a specific item.
Gritzewsky, a Vietnam veteran, found a military patch that he had been looking for since the late ‘60s.
“He sold it to me for $5,” Gritzewsky said. “But it’s worth it.”
The treasure hunt will continue at the next L.A. Flea Market on Aug. 29.