When Maconites and transplants awkwardly admit that they’ve never been to the Bragg Jam Music Festival, I’m often astonished. When others claim there is nothing at the Macon Film Festival that interests them, I’m flabbergasted then rightfully perturbed. When someone confides that they’ve lived in Macon for years, but have never been to the Magnolia Street Soapbox Derby ... a little bit of me dies inside.
But to see the spectrum of my emotions, just tell me that you’ve lived in Middle Georgia for years and have NEVER visited Smiley’s. Seriously, my head spins like Beetlejuice. Then, I transform into a stammering evangelist hell-bent on converting you.
At least once a month, I strap my 4-year-old son into an overpriced stroller (because my wife won’t let me push a shopping cart around ... yet) in search of treasure, knickknacks, man-tiques and the obscure collectible. My wife may have Amazon Prime at her fingertips, but I’ve got access to Patrick, Big John, Carlos and a rotating cast of peddlers ready to make a deal!
You can’t just head out to Smiley’s and explore willy-nilly, there is a strategy pick’n and barter’n. Using the following tips helps create a memorable experience.
1: Arrive early to get first pick from peach trees to tamales.
2: Park on the west end for quick access to the low-fee ATM and safest exit at the end of the day.
3: Walk past all buildings/shops and start with the outside vendors and yard sellers. You can the beat the heat by zig-zagging the rows, alternating between shade and sun then stopping off at the big coolers filled with ice for a reasonably priced Powerade.
5: Remember, if you’re interested in something, be sure to dicker. It’s expected. Enjoy the dance.
6: If you have kids, seek out the carousel. $1 buys one ride and $5 covers the young ones for the weekend. While your child races the painted horses as if at the Belmont, you can enjoy a torta or a taco.
7: Step into any of the half dozen concession stands nearby and order away! Lengua, al pastor, chorizo, the list goes on. Then be sure to grab an agua de melón or sidral mundet to round out the meal.
Whether you need a gallon of Drakkar Noir, a 35-foot iPhone cable or slightly used chainsaw, there is something at Smiley’s for you. So pack up the family today and head down Ga. 247 to another historic landmark. Maybe you’ll hit the lottery and find that elusive 1992 Dream Team Starting Lineup set you’ve been looking for.
Smiley’s is Georgia’s largest flea market and is located at 6717 Hawkinsville Road. It’s open 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Chris Tsavatewa is the director of experiential learning at Middle Georgia State University, and an overly engaged citizen who’s volunteering gets in the way of his volunteering. Follow him on twitter @chiefchippy.