Get ready, get set, shop.
And shop and shop.
The area’s biggest shopping bonanza for lovers of antiques and anything else that can be collected under the sun has arrived. The three-day Gold Rush Days, both the Rochester and Oronoco versions, are set to kick off Friday.
The twin events are expected to bring as many as 30,000 people, with dealers and shoppers coming from all over the U.S.
For some, it’s the hunt that drives them. For others, it’s the chance to find that rare collector’s item. And yet for other people, it is that opportunity to dig out and learn the history of an object.
For Dick Townsend, promoter of Rochester’s Gold Rush Days, it’s the hunt that gets his juices flowing. To find things you once only read about — to find things you didn’t even know existed — makes the event feel like Christmas, he said. Some items will change hands multiple times during the three-day extravaganza, rising in value with each purchase. So it’s imperative to strike early.
“Being a collector myself, I look at every single item on the grounds, because you never know where the biggest sleeper is — something you’re going to make a ton of money off of,” Townsend said. “It’s amazing what’s out there.”
The fact that Gold Rush events are hosted by two cities on the same weekend may seem like an oddity to some, but long-time attendees have long grown accustomed to the arrangement.
The short history goes something like this: Gold Rush started in Oronoco. At the some point, there was a split. And while both claim to be the original 43rd annual Gold Rush Days, the rivals largely see themselves as complementing and playing off each other.
“We work together in sync as much as we can,” said Carol Olson, Oronoco’s Gold Rush Days’ event coordinator. “It complements each other in the sense you draw a huge crowd of people who are totally focused on purchasing antiques.”
There are some differences. Rochester’s is a privately run event, while Oronoco’s is run as a nonprofit. Rochester’s takes place on Olmsted County Fairgrounds’ 52 acres. Oronoco’s booths and vendors are set all throughout town. But both are the same in that they are magnets for antique shoppers and collectors across the U.S.
“I’ve talked to vendors who fly in from New Orleans, who fly in from the East Coast,” Olson said. “They come here and they shop.”
As a sign of the coming surge, area hotels have been booked for weeks, officials say. Townsend estimated that 60 percent of visitors will come from outside Minnesota.
There isn’t enough space to give a complete accounting of all the items for sale. But they include (here you might want to take a deep breath): Vintage collectibles, vintage custom jewelry, fine jewelry, vintage clothing and accessories, retro, mid-century, modern and repurposed items, primitives, folk art, furniture, china, porcelain, pottery, glassware, Victorian glass, clocks, postcards, comics, movie memorabilia, bronzes, bookended, doorstops, stoneware, children’s dishes, dolls, toys, sewing items, prints, quilts, military items, fishing lures, hunting decoys, gasoline and oil advertising, train, farm toys, comics, autographs, lamps, kitchenware, Hummel and Goebel figurines, crafts … well, you get the idea.
“On the grounds, you never know what will appear,” Townsend said. “It’s everything from items (valued at) a nickel to $50,000.”
Suzanne Kramer, a River Falls, Wis., antique shop owner, will be setting up a booth at Rochester’s Gold Rush Days. Kramer builds a room for herself, made up of vintage screen doors and horizontal braces. Once she has what she calls her “nest” set up, she sets up Scandinavian antiques, sewing tools and Christmas items.
It never gets old, she said.
“For me, it’s the history of things,” Kramer said. “I like to really dig out the history of things. I like finding something and putting the correct history with it. Something that maybe would have gotten lost in the shuffle.”
Kramer has been going to Gold Rush Days-type events since she was a girl, when her parents started up an antique shop. But over time, she has narrowed down the number of such events she attends to seven.
Rochester always remains on the list, partly because of its uniqueness. In terms of variety of items, prices and people, Gold Rush Days in Rochester is unrivaled, she said.
“You get an interesting mixture of people and questions that I do not see at any other shows,” Kramer said. “It’s so widely attended by people. People come from a long way, both to come and see and to buy.”