Old Fashioned Florida Flea Market

Despite the early morning hour, the sun’s rays warm the blacktop covering Route 301 from Gainesville heading north. Inhaling the warm moist air, you notice a horse statue atop a sign towering over the green plains blanketing Alachua County.  The Waldo Farmer’s Flea Market begs you to explore “Central Florida’s Largest Flea Market” for a while on the way to your flight in Jacksonville. Dust swirls with the breeze in the gravel covered parking area, while cars creep into the lot on this Sunday morning.  Early risers already scored the best bargains, now neatly tucked away in plastic shopping bags and eco-friendly reusable totes.  The satisfied patrons make their way back to their cars as you pull into a vacant spot.

One such shopper wears a wide brimmed hat, black rimmed sunglasses, and sandals; an odd combination of quirky scientist and outdoorsman.  He carries a grill grate and stops to explain to you he used the tape measure in his hand to make sure he bought the correctly sized replacement for his grill.

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Signs at the entrance tease promises of produce, housewares, and knives, certainly kitchen-critical items.  Once through the covered entryway, the market opens to rows of new and gently pre-owned merchandise, produce, sporting goods and treasures waiting to be found.

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Roughly constructed tables and stalls bring a déjà vu feeling as you are transported back in time to rural life in America, where your community is extended family, life was simpler, and farm to table was a way of life, not a dining trend.

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Fresh fruits and vegetables, some still covered in dirt, attest to the farm to table authenticity.  No matter your needs or interests, you can find what you seek right here.

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The aroma of peanuts fills the air, the salted treats still warm as you can’t help but stroll towards the samples in front of you.   Handing you a taste, the proprietor (wearing a Florida Gators shirt) offers his suggestions for improving the university’s football team.

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His wife adds powdered spices to oil-crisped pork rinds just pulled from the bubbling sizzling oil. The crunchy peanuts mingle well with the hotel’s continental breakfast, hastily eaten while packing the car this morning.  The pork rinds, however, are another matter entirely.

Satisfied with your browsing and snacking sojourn, it is time to get to the airport, and leave this mystical land from another time behind.    Waldo waits for your return, reminding you to “come back again real soon”.

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