E. F. Schumacher, the author of Small is Beautiful, once said, “Any fool can make things complicated, it requires a genius to make things simple.” By that yardstick, the people that organize the Antique Show at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wellsboro have passed down a talent for genius for fifty years. This year, the show will be held, on October 6, in the parish hall on Walnut Street, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It all started in 1963, when two women with a passion for antiques decided that a show organized by the church would be a fun way to raise money. Julia Spencer and Betty Kerrick had been to a number of antique shows, and it looked like something they could do. So they contacted antique dealers from around the area and created an exhibition hall. In the beginning, there were more dealers in smaller booths, but, over time, fifteen became the number of booths available. As Wilma Beller, longtime worker and former chair of the show, said, “It is really all we have room for.” Instead of finding ways to make the show bigger, the committee at St. Paul’s used the size of the hall to give the show an intimate appeal. This is not a mere marketplace of antique items, but, instead, a visit with people knowledgeable about antiques. As Marge Weatherbee, who has exhibited at the show for thirty-eight years, said, “It’s a nice, homey feeling. Always a good show, always quality.”
Much of the show’s family feeling comes from the traditions that were instituted from the very beginning. Originally it was a two-day show, with the dealers from outside the Wellsboro area staying with members of the parish. Then, at the end of the show, they had a full dinner with the dealers and the people from St. Paul’s that worked on the show. That tradition was altered when the show became a one-day affair. For the last twenty-five years, Wilma Beller has baked a special ham for what she calls “a little supper” the night before the show. It is still attended by the dealers and the workers for the show. As she says, “We do it because we enjoy doing it.” The other longstanding tradition is a raffle of three antique items donated by members of the parish. Currently, many of these items are from the home of Louise Brown, who left an “antique legacy” to St. Paul’s to continue this tradition. And, like any good church event, there is a lunch counter with homemade sandwiches, soups, pies, and beverages, along with a bake sale table.
The show is one of the community anchors for Wellsboro’s Fall Harvest Fest, which is held the same weekend. On the sidewalks, vendors offer a variety of crafts and baked goods, the local Farmer’s Market displays the harvest, and the downtown merchants host sidewalk sales.
The secret to the long success of the Antique Show is not hard to fathom. Instead of talking about increasing the size of the show, or the dates of the show, the people involved in this project talk about strengthening the connections between people. Lisa Dodge, secretary for the parish, says that working on the show “builds the sisterhood” in the parish. The focus is on the bond of friendship between the antique dealers that exhibit, the parish people who work on the project, extending to the church as a whole, and then on to the community. The Antique Show and Sale at St. Paul’s raises money for the church, but its “cash crop” is the outpouring of care and fellowship to everyone involved.