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Itchin' to shop, sell? Head to the flea market

The "summer set" of vendors will be arriving for the first market of the season May 28. Lynne and LeRoy Denman, above, have been enjoying their role as hosts for more than 40 years. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

For more than four decades, vendors have been arriving Thursdays on the eastern edge of Park Rapids to sell their wares.

And this summer will be no exception.

Summerset Flea Market opens for the season May 28, with an ever-changing variety of goods for sale in the great outdoors.

"It's like Christmas," said manager (and collector) Lynne Denman. "You never know who will show up."

The idea for the bazaar germinated more than 40 years ago when a summer resident who wintered in Arizona told Lynne and LeRoy Denman about a new fad in Arizona: flea markets.

Auctions were all the rage, but a flea market offered a unique venue for a variety of goods to be sold by a host of part-time merchants.

The Denmans became one of the first in the state to establish a flea market on a regular basis.

Their list of vendors now numbers 600-plus - with an ever-changing variety. On average, 30 to 40 arrive each week. That's a change from the "old days" when 100 merchants, many elderly, came with goods.

"They're like relatives," said Lynne, who's up before sunrise, come Thursdays, to begin cooking for the vendors and visitors.

"We never turn people away," she said.

Vendors may select open-air spots or set up shop under canopies (for a few dollars more). There are no set hours for the casual event.

"We look forward to them coming," said LeRoy, who takes a day off from Denman Sewer Service work.

The Denmans set up their six-foot grill with bacon frying for breakfast when the merchants begin to arrive.

And lunch will be ready at noon hour.

"We're famous for our hamburgers," Lynne said. And depending on her Mom's Catering schedule, "leftovers" - soup and salads extraordinaire - may be on the menu. She's developed a lunch crowd of "regulars."

"It's so casual. We have fun with it," she said.

The decision to hold the sales on Thursdays stemmed from her childhood. Lynne grew up on a resort and recalled that as the week progressed, people were looking for something to do.

Initially, the market drew antique dealers but has evolved through the years to feature everything from "soup to nuts" - emu liniment, fishing lures, books, Navaho and other jewelry, T-shirts, plants - throughout the summer - and more.

The Park Rapids Garden Club will be hosting a plant sale Saturday, May 30 on the site.

Will the stagnant economy take a swat at flea market? It's a difficult call, the Denmans agreed.

People may decide to clean out the garage at last, taking their goods to market.

And customers, looking to cut costs, may arrive to bargain hunt.

At 68, Lynne isn't yet ready to retire as a flea marketeer.

"I don't know what we'd do on Thursdays," she said - or Wednesdays, when they prepare for the swarm.

Summerset Flea Market is located three miles east of Park Rapids on Highway 34.

The market will be open, weather permitting, Thursdays through Sept. 3.