By DAVID MATTINGLY | WAVE 3 News
Following a year of COVID-related cancellations, flea market vendors at the Kentucky Expo Center expressed relief in being able to see their customers again.
“It definitely made for a tough year,” vendor Andy Albatys said. “It was a tough year for anybody in this kind of business. We got through it. You know, we were fortunate to be able to do that. We’re back to work and that’s great.”
Crowds showed up early Friday for the first day of the four-day Kentucky Flea Market and most left their masks at home. Vaccine shots made a big difference in confidence.
Mary Beth Woods, who is vaccinated, attended the show without a mask.
“It’s wonderful, wonderful,” she said. “Very free. Very free.”
Pat Blair and her husband were vaccinated months ago, but still wear their masks in crowds.
“We’ve been getting out for months now,” Blair said. “We just put on our masks and it’s OK.”
Before COVID, some vendors’ income depended on traveling to different flea markets multiple times a month.
Every cancellation had an impact on the bottom line.
“About two a month,” vendor Marilyn Angel said when asked how many of her shows had been canceled during COVID. “Over 20, possibly closer to 30.”
John Stewart, owner of Stewart Promotions, which produces the event and other markets, said he tried to keep the events going with health plans, including mask requirements and social distancing.
Those plans failed when COVID case numbers continued to climb.
Stewart expressed relief to be back in business.
“To be honest, I think a lot of it is we’re a family business,” he said. “And just seeing all the familiar faces, all the smiling faces, being able to hug each other and say hi for the first time in a very long time.”