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If pondering whether to head to the renowned Round Top Antiques Show, which is currently underway, and wondering what you might find there, the answer is pretty simple: Little has changed in the age of COVID-19, other than the obvious.
As always, you’ll see pasture after pasture of furniture, architectural remnants, home décor, fashion, and jewelry vendors stretching along a 25-mile-long corridor of Texas Highway 237—mixed in with a great many hand-washing stations, pump bottles full of hand sanitizer, and signs reminding you that face coverings are required. Open-air tents are typical, though some venues are enclosed buildings, as per usual.
One of the country’s favorite gatherings for antique hunters brings an estimated 100,000 visitors to this bucolic spread of Fayette County—about midway between Houston and Austin—from around Texas and the nation every autumn. There’s a similar gathering in the spring, but this year’s event was canceled with the pandemic’s onset.
Scattered across roughly 65 venues around Round Top, a burg measuring some 610 acres and famously boasting a permanent population of fewer than 100 people, the antiques fair also casts its net over other towns and communities such as Fayetteville, Carmine, Burton, and Warrenton. In all, roughly 2,500 dealers bring their wares—the famous adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” has never been more fitting—to sell over a two-week stretch. This year’s fair began Oct. 15 and continues through Nov. 1.
All venues agreed upon adjustments with an eye toward “putting together a show that feels safe and healthy to everyone—and there’s a lot of fresh air at all the venues,” says Katie Stavinoha, publisher of The Round Top Antiques Show Guide and Round Top Register. “Signs are posted about the county’s mask mandate, and booths are placed at greater distances and aisles are wider. In buildings, there’s limited capacity for occupancy. Everyone’s committed to staging a show where people will be comfortable and have a good time,” she says, noting that dining is naturally outdoors, with an abundance of food trucks providing a diverse selection of food, from burgers to banana pudding, and shrimp to salads.
Early reports indicate good attendance, but without significant traffic jams on the two-lane roads winding through the area; weather has been lovely, and people seem more eager than ever to find ways to brighten their homes now, Stavinoha adds. As usual, visitors find that vendors are experts in their fields. “And if you can’t find that special item you’re looking for,” she says, “ask vendors who might have it.”
Though you may see some folks not wearing masks here and there, most people appear to be mindful about safety protocols, says Linda Plant, a realtor who moved to Round Top from Houston in 2003. “People have had such cabin fever, they’re happy to be out in the fresh air, where it feels safe. It’s easy to stay 6 feet away from people out here, even at the fair.”
The Round Top area continues to boom, Plant says, with more and more people wanting to either retire or establish a second home in this rural area. Finding that “our sleepy little town isn’t so sleepy anymore,” she and likeminded friends established a group called Friends of Highway 237. Their ongoing mission is to remind all visitors to keep roadsides and pastures as tidy as they found them. The antiques fair doesn’t have a way to police the landscape, leaving everyone to mind the honor system of being a good neighbor, Plant explains. “Highway 237 is part of the Texas Independence Trail, which not everyone realizes. We take pride in the historical significance of our area and hope everyone else will, too.”