Time to swap: 44th annual swap meet draws vendors from far and wide

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, February 23, 2019
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Across the Pond Swap

ACROSS THE POND SWAP – London resident Dean Bailey and El Paso resident Paz Garcia shake hands after settling on a price for a John Deere snow globe. Garcia has been coming to the Decatur Swap Meet since 1995. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Piecemealed antique automobiles puttered through the mud, drawing friendly nods and grunts.

Men with wispy beards and fistfuls of light beer sized up the commotion of 1,330 fellow vendors settling into the Wise County Fairgrounds.

It could only mean one thing, it’s time to swap.

Vendors at the 44th annual Swap Meet in Decatur displayed an eclectic collection of items, ranging from all manner of car parts, knickknacks and antiques.

People came from far and wide to meet from Thursday to Sunday. Jerry Dufva and John Vogt traveled from Kansas City to sell their collection of tires and antique signs.

Last year, they weathered an ice storm and said they had so much fun they decided to come back.

“We’re gonna be regulars,” Vogt said.

Swap Meet Swag

SWAP MEET SWAG – Chuck Humphreys of Plainview shows off his antique car Thursday at the 44th Annual Decatur Swap Meet. He’s cobbled his car together from parts found at the Decatur Swap Meet for the past 20 years. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Chuck Humphreys, a Plainview resident, has been coming for the past 20 years, steadily building his antique Model A Ford.

“It’s a 1924, a 1931 and a 1934, 1935 and probably a 1980-something,” Humphreys said. “I got most of the parts here at the swap meet. That’s why it’s so many different years.”

He has a price tag on the car, but deep down, he said he hopes it doesn’t sell. Instead, he might find a new part this year.

“My grandkids love it,” he said.

Inside one of the many pavilions at the Swap Meet in Decatur, Paz Garcia, a vendor from El Paso carefully arranged his display of wares. There, the worlds of a South Texas and London collided.

London resident Dean Bailey browsed Garcia’s selection, buying a John Deere snow globe. They bargained and settled on a price of $20.

“It’s brilliant, isn’t it?” Bailey said. “Totally unique. I couldn’t find this anywhere else.”

After flying to Oklahoma to buy a custom motorcycle, Bailey ventured down to Decatur to browse the offerings of the swap meet with a friend.

It’s just one of the cherished interactions Garcia has had in his years of coming to the swap meet.

Garcia first came to the swap meet in 1995, driving 585 miles with the overflow from his Hot Wheelz collection.

He hasn’t missed a meet since, driving 11 hours to sell his wares.

“It’s always been a good one for me,” Garcia said. “That’s why I keep coming back and back.”

While he still features a selection of Hot Wheelz, his collection has grown to a little bit of everything. He’s also gained a collection of friends and familiar faces from his 24 years of coming to the swap meet.

“I have a few friends I see here every year. We sit and talk like we’re old buddies,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s like a little city comes here, a community. By Sunday it’s all gone – poof.”

He’ll sleep in his van in a sleeping bag for the three nights he’s here. But he said it’s comfortable to him. The swap meet is a break from the routine of retirement.

The annual event, sponsored by the Wise County Antique Auto Club, is open to the public 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Sunday, at the Wise County Fairgrounds on Farm Road 51 South in Decatur.

Come Sunday, as the city moves on, Garcia said he’ll take the money he’s made from the weekend to reserve his spot for next year.

“I’m gonna keep coming back as long as I can,” he said.

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