The Fancy Flea Celebrated Jane Austen Garden Party
by James Coulter
If you’re into clothing with lace and other frilly things, then you should consider taking a look around at the merchandise of Blue Betty.
A regular vendor at The Fancy Flea vintage market in Lakeland, Blue Betty offers many different dresses, clothes, and other various items repurposed from lost and found pieces.
Owner Carrie Ferrante loves to find old items and give them a Bohemian, vintage-style makeover. Some vintage lace here, some extra trimmings there, and what she ends up making is something truly unique that can’t be found at any big box store, she said.
“What sets me apart is that many of my pieces are one-of-a-kind,” she said.
For the past nine years, Ferrante has been attending The Fancy Flea vintage market events in Lakeland. Last weekend, she attended for their Jane Austen Garden Party-themed event.
What keeps her coming back time and again is the camaraderie among vendors and attendees alike. The Fancy Flea allows everyone to get to know everyone so that they know exactly what to expect from vendors time and again, she said.
“I have a following now that I have been coming here for so long,” she said. “People are really friendly in this area. I just love being a part of this show.”
Blue Betty was one of nearly 100 vendors that attended The Fancy Flea vintage market last weekend at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. This event provided a Victorian atmosphere, with the summer market being themed to a Jane Austen Garden Party.
Upon entering the convention center, guests could step right into the spirit of the theme, with a trail of pages from a Jane Austen novel leading them into the heart of the event teaming with foliage and vintage signage and scenery.
Nearly a hundred vendors from the local area, as well as from across the state and country, gathered to provide vintage merchandise, many of which reflected the Jane Austen theme with frilly dresses and blooming flowers.
“Women love Jane Austen,” said Director Lori Powell. “They love the romance. They love all that goes with it. Right now there is a resurgence [of the genre]…In Florida, you garden year-round, and [we did this for] the women [who] love the romantic theme.”
Powell started the seasonal vintage market ten years ago in Downtown Lakeland. What started with 12 vendors her initial year has since grown to 150 regular booths and vendors, with 250 at their largest shows.
For the past 40 years, Powell has been working within the hospitality industry, having previously worked as a sales director for 15 years. With four decades of experience under her belt, she decided to utilize it by hosting her own vintage market.
“It is an easy business to get into,” she said of her career. “You have to love what you do to do a good job. I love the vintage. I love to repurpose things…I am very pleased with what the vendors have bought.”
The only real challenge with hosting an event such as this has been competing with other similar shows. When she first started, the vintage market trend was only starting. Now there is a glut of other shows to compete with.
“I still have people who come from outside of the area, but not as many because there are vintage markets everywhere,” she explained. “So right now, we have to reinvent ourselves, the vendors are looking at what they have been selling. I make changes to the show, so you have to evolve with the times.”
What has allowed her own show to remain popular for the past decade has been the relationships fostered among attendees and vendors alike. Being able to purchase items from friendly faces that you’ve seen time and again adds to the overall experience, she said.
The Fancy Flea will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this November with their largest event yet with celebrity guests, live entertainment, and other festivities to mark off a decade of vintage love.
“When you come to a fancy flea, you are not just here to shop, you are here to visit and eat,” Powell said. “It is an experience. It is not just a trade show. It is an experience when you come here.”