Drive down the backroads of LaGrange County and see the landscape full of white-washed houses and barns. In the fields are acres of corn and hay and the pastures have horses and well-fed cows grazing contentedly. Along the side of the road, on the shoulder of the asphalt the horses have created a white path from their hoofs using that part of the road to pull the buggies. Shipshe, as the locals know it, Shipshewana to us looking for it on the map is home to the Midwest's largest outdoor flea market. Explore over 1000 vendors covering 60 acres on Tuesdays and Wednesdays May through October. On Wednsday an auction takes place in the auction barn and features 11 auction rings simultaneously selling antiques and collectibles.
There are cottage shops located along the backroads; look for signs in the yards that indicate you are welcome to stop and purchase goods directly from the artists who make them. Or, you can browse through E&S Sales to see their aisles and aisles of bulk foods.
Continue down State Road 5 and you will see The Antique Gallery. With over 100 vendors this is not your "flea market" mall. This well-lit, clean facility has over 100 vendors and is over 31,000 square feet in size. The coffee is always on in this quality antique store. Right across the street is the Auction and Flea Market. We were there in November so there were no auctions taking place. This place is huge!
Across from Yoder's Meat and Cheese is the Farmstead Inn & Conference Center. this commplex contains 154 guest rooms and suites.
Driving into town there are many wonderful furniture stores that sell oak and cherry and walnut furniture. Take your pick of a multiude of stores that sell things for your home and garden. When you are ready for a meal, there are lots and lots of restaurants to choose from for good home-cooking.
The flea market is open every Tuesday & Wednesday from 8am-5pm, May-October and certain other days around Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.
There are over 1,000 vendors selling mostly new items-crafts, furniture, food items, produce, toys, stuff you would find at dollar stores, etc. There are also lots of people selling used books and a few selling "antiques".
We usually don't buy much at the flea market except from the vendors selling baked goods, fresh fruit and flowers for planting and hanging baskets at very reasonable prices, 50% less than I pay back in Chicagoland.
The auction is held every Wednesday except Christmas and New Year's, the auction starts at 9 am until the auctioning is finished.
If you want to inspect the merchandise before the auction starts, you can view it on Tuesday and Wednesday before the bidding starts. Check the website below for exact times, right now it says you can start looking Wednesday at 5:30 am and Tuesday 7am-5 pm May-Oct, 10am-5pm Nov-April. If you've never bid at auction before, you might want to watch a few to get the hang of it and make sure you know exactly what you are bidding on (eg a set of 6 chairs may be sold one at a time).
Payment is with cash unless other arrangements are made prior to bidding. My sister in law, who had an antique store, told me that the prices are always higher in the summer because the East Coasters come in during the summer and raise the bidding prices.
There always seems to be a lot of interesting stuff, a lot of it antiques and collectibles, lots of really nice furniture. But there are also frequently reproductions, not sure if the auctioneers are up front about that or not.
If you've wondered about the Amish people and their Mennonite kindred, Menno-Hof is the place to stop. You'll learn about their faith journey from the old world to Indiana. You'll discovered the meaning behind America's 'religious freedoms'. The museum ends with an introduction to modern day Amish and Mennonite faith practices and their sense of community which determines their involvement. Yes, both groups are involved in the world, just in ways that don't shout their faith to others.
Jo and I only found one of these near Essenhaus but if you have a more leisurely visit, there are 16 flower beds planted in quilt designs and 16 murals that can be found throughout Amish Country along the Heritage Trail that takes you through Elkhart, Middlebury, Nappanee, Shipshewana and Bristol. The gardens should be available to view through October 1, 2009.
You can find a map here and more information on the website below.
Jo and I stopped by Mennohof for a few minutes to have a look around, unfortunately we didn't have time to do the tour which is the only way to visit Mennohof. I believe the clerk said it would take about 1 1/2 hours, admission for adults was $6. If you don't have time for a tour, there are some books and other literature inside the building for purchase.
The clerk did answer a question that Jo had about how the Amish in this part of the US were related to the Dutch, turns out that they are actually of German descent as are the Pennsylvania Dutch and many other Amish communities in the US, the term "Dutch" comes from the word "Deutsch", the German language word for German.
THE MENNO-HOF MUSEUM tells the story of the Amish and Mennonite people. It is a unique museum and well worth a visit.
My brother-in-law, an artist, helped design the displays inside. He was the only non-Amish and non-Mennonite person employed in a design capacity for this project.
(trivia fact: Shipshewana is the only Indiana site listed in "1000 places to see before you die")
Shipshewana is definitely a good place to spend a day or two. The scenery is beautiful and comfortable. We will be back!
Shipshewana's Flea market is the 10th biggest flea market in the united states. With over 100+ shops open all year 'round. Many open till 6.