Think goods of questionable value cram our malls and cable shopping channels? To get some context, spend a few hours here browsing an annual Renninger’s “extravaganza” — about 800 vendors selling merchandise from the past 150 years. You might have to choose from:
▪ A heavy copper box decorated with gobs of colored glass and stamped on the bottom “Tiffany Studios, New York, N.Y.” The price tag says $1,200.
▪ A magazine from May 1892 headlined “Boy industrialist Leland Stanford opens a new college out West” (Hint: They named the college after him.) In the same carton is a copy of the 1901 book William McKinley, Our Martyred President.
▪ If you agree that FDR was the Man of the Hour, there’s a foot-tall electric mantle clock that bears that legend beneath a sculpture of the (standing) president grasping a ship’s wheel.
These items are typical for an Extravaganza day. There were also collections of arrowheads, unused bedpans, antique ice cream scoops, Smurf glasses, imprinted ashtrays (”Danny’s Hideaway, Across From the Dogtrack”), lapel pins from the former Soviet Union, and wedding photos, baby photos — even funeral photos.
Overheard at one dealer:
“Is that harpoon real? How much is it … where’d you get it?”
“Well, the metal tip is real, but we made up the shaft and attached new rope to it. These came from Nova Scotia, off old whaling ships, ’cause you can’t whale no more.”
The extravaganzas — that’s the official name — are operated by Renninger’s Promotions on 117 hilly acres outside Mount Dora. Year-round the company, which is based in Pennsylvania but has been operating sales in Florida for more than 30 years, also rents enclosed, air-conditioned space to about 200 dealers of pricier items. Most every weekend sees a flea market, farmers market or antiques fairs. Several specialty shows — Vintage Garden Show, Fall in the Field, and Steampunk & Industrial among them — are put on twice a year.
But it is the extravaganzas that make visiting an experience.
▪ Renninger’s Florida site is on U.S. 441 just east of Mount Dora and north of State Road 46, about 30 miles north of Orlando. There are both Friday-Sunday and single-day admissions. Tickets are cheapest on Sunday, when some stuff is gone. The next extravaganza will be Nov. 20-22. Extravaganzas are also held in January and February. Information: www.renningers.net.