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Holiday Shopping: First Monday Style

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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CANTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Every weekend around the first Monday of every month, the number of people in the East Texas town of Canton explodes.

They are all here for First Monday Trade Days.

The town of 5,000, located a hour east of Dallas on Interstate 20, will play host to hundreds of thousands of people in a single weekend. And in the waning months of the year it becomes a welcome alternative for people who don’t want the usual headaches of mall or superstore holiday shopping.

Thousands of vendors set up shop in a dizzying array of covered walkways and buildings that takes up hundreds of acres.  It is surrounded by crowded parking lots and RV areas where people camp out for the entire weekend.

What can you find at the market?

“You could buy everything from tires for your car to box springs and mattresses to furniture,” said Mike Cramer, a furniture maker who’s sold his wares at First Monday for 13-years.

There are tables with unique foods and lots of handcrafted artwork.  “There was a stuffed panther down there,” one shopper replied when asked what was the strangest thing she’d seen so far.

She may not have seen the all-pink, beauty salon chair with matching pink hair dryer attached and white Hawaiian lei drapped over the top of it.

“You could go to ‘Dog Town’ and buy yourself a dog or a pig,” Cramer said, pointing toward a distant point of the market.

According to Canton’s history, First Monday Trade Days started in Canton’s square in the 1850s. Back then a circuit judge stopped into the Van Zandt County seat and people would gather either to attend to court business or watch the proceedings. That led to people bringing in goods and trading livestock.

Soon, the gatherings were drawing people from the surrounding region. The gatherings outgrew the square in the 1960s and it was moved to a park on the north side of town.   It has now evolved into what Canton claims is the largest flea market in America.

“I don’t know if it’s the area or the folks or what,” Cramer said. “But this is the most consistant performing show that I’ve found and I’ve done them from coast to coast. This is the one we settled in at. This is the only one we do. I’m making a living in this space four days a month.”

And even though the market is huge, it still maintains Canton’s small town appeal.

“We come out here a lot!” said Amanda Bacchetta from Dallas. “Its fun. Everyone is super friendly. There’s always fun things to buy and look at. Its great for unique presents.”

“For the most part it’s laid back,” said Pam Burnett, a long-time vendor at the market. “It’s not like the rush you see in the shopping malls or anything. They just have more time to enjoy themselves.”

First Monday runs through this weekend.  If you miss your chance, you can always head out next month.

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