The Madison Historical Society Antiques Fair Changes It – More Than Old Furniture and Items


MADISON — There’s a new twist at the Madison Historical Society Antiques Fair, a long-running summer tradition that’s now in its 50th year.

The busy antiques fair has been “reinvented”, said the historical society’s executive director Jenny Simpson, including a brand new name.

The Madison Historical Society’s Summer Arts and Antiques Festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, August 27, on the Madison Town Green, and is a continuation of the organization’s annual Antiques Fair, with lots of new additions – from birds of prey to the sights of a tank dunk and a car show.

The festival is truly a mix of old and new, from contemporary art and silly putty making to pre-industrial crafts like weaving and spinning, doll making, bookbinding, pottery molding and pottery decoration, with live demonstrations.

Clinton’s Lyle and Barbara Cubberly are two of the traditional artisans you shouldn’t miss. Lyle, who served 27 years in the Air Force and has a doctorate in history, has worn many hats in his life. These days it’s often an 18th century as the couple also take part in colonial re-enactments. Meet him at the festival where he’ll show you how to make a leather-bound journal using 18th-century tools and techniques.

“I tell people if we were in colonial times I’d be working in a big city because only the rich can afford books, and all along I throw in bits of history, bring the kids … I have a lot of fun with it,” Cubberly said.

Barbara Cubberly, a lifelong sewing enthusiast, sews by hand small cloth dolls for men and women, such as were found in mid-18th century France. She makes all the clothes, from the petticoat to the jacket to the headdress (French hat) by hand, using cotton and linen fabrics common at the time. She will also demonstrate her craftsmanship and knowledge of the fashion of the time (for example, women had to cover their heads out of respect for God and their elbows out of modesty) during the festival.

The couple are also former antique dealers and will be selling antiques with their wares (tales are free).

Just as sewing and binding have changed over time, it seemed time for the fair to change too.

“The Antiques Fair started in 1971, so technically 2021 would have been the 50th year, but we pulled 2020 out because of COVID, making this the 50th year,” Simpson said. Last year was also a challenge as the possibility of Hurricane Henri looming over the weekend.

Over the years, times, tastes and the market for antiquities have changed, which in part has led the historical society to change things up a bit and expand the offerings of their major annual fundraiser for 2022, said Simpsons.

The event always features antiques and collectibles vendors from across the region, but this year adds an abundance of ceramics, furniture, glass, jewelry, kitchenware, linens, souvenirs, pottery, toys, vintage accessories, food, music and family activities.

The exhibition and sale of original works by local artists and outdoor painting demonstrations by the Madison Art Society are also included.

A vintage car display offers the chance to see vintage vehicles such as a 1900s Stanley Steamer, a mint condition Triumph TR6 and a beautifully restored 1940 Ford pickup truck up close.

Family activities include colonial games, a dunk tank to soak up the good local sports, life-size Jenga and Connect Four, face painting, henna tattoos, making Silly Putty and a encounter with birds of prey.

According to Simpson, Silly Putty’s roots go back to a Madison inventor.

Live musical performances and a tantalizing menu of Fair Trade foods and treats complete the sensory experiences.

If you’re feeling lucky, a raffle runs throughout the day with prizes such as a ride along the shore in a Stanley Steamer, an original watercolor portrait of your home by the local artist Bill Dowling, a handmade quilt, gift certificates for Dine-Around Madison, a beauty and spa package and matching gift baskets. Raffle tickets are $10 each or three for $25.

All proceeds from the event support Madison Historical Society programming and operations.

“We are a dynamic organization,” said Simpson, “We offer lectures, organize school tours, maintain our collections, have many programs and properties such as the Allis Bushnell House, Lee’s Academy and all that is within properties, and we maintain the smallpox graveyard at Guilford.

The historical society operates with a few part-time paid staff and many volunteers. A successful event will help the group continue their work, and “we hope to do more public outreach programs such as returning holiday lantern tours in early December, COVID permitting,” Simpson added.

Simpson became the executive director in 2015. That year, some 90 antique dealers went green. Last year, maybe because of the weather and Covid, there were around 40 dealerships.

“We want to be on the green more, so we’ve decided to offer a lot of different things this year,” Simpson said, adding, “We hope everyone comes out and has a great day on the green. really has something for everyone.

Admission is $6, teens $3, children under 12 are admitted free. Visit for more information about the association and the event.

Photos courtesy of Madison Historical Society. Photo credit: Bob Gundersen


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