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Tuesday flea market a bargain shoppers paradise
The flea market has items that interest both young and old. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN / The Journal
Why is a flea market called a flea market? That might sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but it is a valid question. The Turlock Tuesday Flea Market features everything from live bunny rabbits to used gardening tools, but there is not a single flea for sale.
A quick Google search reveals that flea markets are named after the French “marche aux puces,” a name given to similar markets in Paris. It was believed that the goods sold in these outdoor markets carried fleas. Although used goods at the Turlock market are in good condition, and there are no fleas in sight, not much else has changed from the old Parisian markets where villagers came to sell their wares.
The Turlock flea market, also known as the Turlock Sales Yard, opened in 1938. It is currently one of the largest weekday flea markets in the state of California. Every Tuesday morning, between 5,000 and 10,000 shoppers congregate at the corner of East Avenue and Johnson Road in Turlock to browse through items sold by hundreds of vendors.
These items, which run the gamut from clothing and jewelry to toilet seats, are spread out on blankets, tables and sometimes the ground. Vendors use tactics from shouting to singing in order to draw in customers. There is a general atmosphere of hustle and bustle as shoppers peruse for the perfect item before rushing off to work. Gates open at 4:30 a.m. for vendors, and die-hard shoppers arrive before the sun comes up.
One might ask themselves, “why all the fuss?” Why would vendors drive from as far away as the Bay Area to sell inexpensive goods in Turlock?
“This is a family, whether people know it or not,” said Alan, a vendor who preferred to keep his last name private.
Alan answered a customer’s questions about a fishing lure from a chair in the middle of his booth. He sat in the shade and had oxygen tubes in his nose. Alan said that flea markets are a way of socializing, especially for disabled people. He said that even flea markets are feeling the effects of the bad economy.
“You’ve got to have money to buy,” Alan said.
Despite this outlook on slow sales, many people did leave the flea market with purchases. One shopper strolled out of the gate with a framed picture of his favorite basketball star. A little girl walked down East Avenue carrying a cage that held her newly purchased parakeet. Countless other shoppers bought drinks and food from the mobile concession stands at the sales yard.
The volume of customers at the Turlock flea market is so high that it causes traffic delays on East Avenue. Lines of cars encounter stop and go traffic as drivers in front of them try to avoid pedestrians or find parking for the flea market. Between 300 and 500 vendors attend the flea market each week, and they are warned to be there by 5:30 a.m. or they may not find a spot.
As the saying should go, “the early bird catches the flea.”
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.