Flea Land opens whole new world to students

Amber Sigman

Her platinum blonde hair and bright blue eyes stood out among her many wrinkles as she puffed away on her non-filter cigarette.

She passes time – en route to her dream of traveling through America – sitting at the edge of her kiosk. As she sits, she hawks bluegrass CDs and car stereos.

Lavona Boatman joined her ex-husband Don Boatman in “road dealing” so she could become a wanderer. The ex-couple’s trailer will remain hitched in Cave City for the next month so they can sell their wares at the Flea Land in Bowling Green.

Flea Land stands out on Three Springs Road, with its big red letters painted on top of its old tin roof. Booths and umbrellas sit out on a stretch of gravel road in the parking lot on sunny days – reminiscent of a yard sale.

Inside, rows of kiosks – filled with everything imaginable – add color to an otherwise average-looking warehouse.

The Boatmans can be found among the rows of booths. Their other stops include various flea markets and bluegrass festivals. They cover their travel expenses with sales at these venues.

They revel in the comfort of knowing that when they are tired of one place they can easily pack up, hitch their trailer and head for a new adventure.

This couple is one of many Flea Land vendors offering their products at wholesale prices.

Some vendors offer oddities like plastic barking dogs and Grateful Dead belts.

Local farmers sell their array of fresh baskets of produce on the weekends. For under a couple bucks, students can buy produce – providing a healthy break from a diet of pizza and cheeseburgers.

One vendor from Allen County sells a basket of assorted-color tomatoes and jalapeno peppers for $2 – good for cheesy tomato or jalapeno grilled cheese sandwiches.

Vendor Suncha McDermott is a gardener from Allen County who is proud of her produce.

“Well, they are fresh picks and pretty inexpensive compared to the grocery market,” McDermott said.

The produce is fresh, but some consumers have questions about the grocery store located in the back side of the flea market.

The rows gleam with multi-colored bottles of expired herbs, vitamin C pills and headache relievers.

“You have to really watch because there are a lot of things that are outdated,” said Martha Hargrove as she wheeled her shopping cart around. “But you have to be careful at a regular grocery store too.”

While some people shop, others dance. Little girls jigged while an artist called ‘Mountain Man’ played wooden spoons along with his recorded country tunes at his kiosk.

A few older folks sat on a wooden bench as they listened and watched the circle encroaching upon ‘Mountain Man’ as he entertained the audience.

“If you want to prove that you’re kind of normal, just come out here,” said Christine Lyle, of Louisville, in response to the variety of eccentrics at Flea Land.

Bizzare-looking plants, available at Flea Land, could make odd house warming gifts. One strange-looking bamboo plant?- considered a sign of luck by some – resembles a curly drinking straw for children.

Bowling Green freshman Jacqueline Bray works at Flea Land on the weekends to make extra cash and meet interesting people.

Sometimes she’ll bring home something too. Once she bought fake flowers to put in her bedroom and spruce it up a bit, she said.

“They sell just about anything out here,” Bray said.

Flea Land isn’t an official party headquarters, but the trained eye can locate party supplies. Beer bongs lie right next to the yo-yo balloons.

If students have no time to do laundry, Flea Land has new pairs of name brand boxer-shorts for $5 for 12 pairs. Ski socks are $1 a pair for those planning to hit the slopes this winter.

Flea markets offer cheaper prices because items have either been salvaged, fallen off a truck or packed in clear plastic instead of standard packaging, vendor Sonny Chau said.

“Some people buy refurbished or if a (distributing) truck has an accident, Chau said. “A majority of the time it’s not damaged. They still can’t resell it to a big store.”

While families rummage around the warehouse to find bargains and old men with wooden canes watch passers-by for free entertainment, the Boatman duo sit and hope they will sell a few more car stereos to help finance their next excursion.