Brownville may have just 133 residents, but they're an active bunch who are proud of the town's rich history. A former port town on the Missouri River founded in 1854, Brownville was home to a U.S. senator, a governor and twice, in the 1870s, the Nebraska State Fair.
Today, Brownville is home to seven museums, bookstores, antique shops, art galleries and a winery. Here are some of the community events coming up in the next few weeks:
Whiskey Run Creek Vineyards 10th anniversary celebration
When: Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
All wine $10 a bottle, with live entertainment by Sum Guise.
Fall Flea Market
When: Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vendors set up shop in Brownville twice a year for the community's flea market. The spring flea market takes place each Memorial Day weekend; the fall market is always the last weekend of September. This fall's version will feature more than 200 vendors selling antiques, furniture, crafts, candles, food and old-fashioned junk.
Paint Brownville Autumn
When: Oct. 11-14
Artists' retreat and workshop.
Brownville Concert Series
When: Oct. 12-14
Kim Brown brings his cabaret performance, “Misfit,” to town. Show times and ticket information at www.brownvilleconcertseries.com or at 402-825-3331.
Old Time Autumn
When: Oct. 13-14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Quilt show, living history demonstrations, trolley, buggy and riverboat rides, street vendors and entertainment and tours of local museums.
When Bryan Mack was a kid, he and his parents rarely missed a year at the Brownville Flea Market.
Even as a little boy, Mack loved it, he said. He remembers searching for baseball cards, pocket knives and other small treasures.
When he was older he'd help his aunt, who sold crafts and flower arrangements, set up her booth before setting off to explore on his own.
Years later, the flea market was one of his first dates with the woman he eventually married.
And now, each year, either in the spring or the fall, he brings the entire family — his wife, Rachel, kids Lily and Henry, and the family's golden retriever, Edgar.
“It's kind of a homecoming,” said Mack, 32, who grew up in nearby Auburn, Neb.
The Brownville Flea Market, which will be held this weekend, is one of the biggest in the area, with more than 200 vendors. Some years, said Jay Tallmon, a board member of the Brownville Historical Society, which puts on the flea market, that number edges closer to 300.
Vendors sell antiques, collectibles, furniture, old toys, candles, pottery, crafts, jewelry, jam and preserves, and garage sale finds and junk, too, Tallmon said. Many vendors attend year after year, setting up their tables in the same spot each time. Roasting nuts and kettle corn make the whole town smell like fall, and many of the homes and businesses along main street decorate for the season, giving the event the feel of an autumn festival as much as a flea market.
The flea market definitely has a community feel, said Tallmon. When he and his wife, Nora, moved to Brownville four and a half years ago, they woke up one morning to discover booths set up practically in the front yard of their 1863 brick house (which they purchased somewhat impulsively after noticing it during a weekend drive). While he was taken aback by the intimacy of the event at first, Tallmon said he's come to look forward to seeing the same vendors and flea market patrons return each year.
The first flea market was held 55 years ago as a fundraiser for the Brownville Historical Society. The society operates several museums in the historic Southeast Nebraska community of 133 people, including two historic houses, a railroad museum housed in the community's old depot and a log cabin made, unusually, from walnut. The cabin opened as a museum this year.
The flea market is still the main funding source for the historical society, Tallmon said. And over the years, it's also become sort of an unofficial kickoff to Brownville's many fall activities.
A few weeks after the flea market is Old Time Autumn, which includes living history demonstrations, buggy, trolley and riverboat rides, and tours of the community's museums. Old Time Autumn coincides with Paint Brownville Autumn, an artists' retreat and workshop. Fall also marks the beginning of the Brownville Concert Series, which brings national cabaret, jazz and classical acts to the area.
This year the town will add another event — Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard in Brownville will celebrate its anniversary.
Friday marks 10 years to the day since the winery opened, said owner Ron Heskett, who bought the winery in January. Heskett has worked there almost since the winery's beginning, at first doing odd jobs, and eventually taking over as winemaker. In 2004, he said, he got out of farming and began working at the winery full-time.
“I'm still in ag, a different kind now,” he said.
Flea market weekends are always big ones for Whiskey Run — Heskett said he rarely has a chance to make more than one quick pass through all the vendors and booths. This year, he said, he's hoping to draw an even bigger crowd with a Friday celebration from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. During that time, all wines will be for sale for $10 a bottle, and the evening will bring music from local bluegrass group Sum Guise.
“It's definitely a very intense two-week period down here,” Tallmon said.
Intense or not, longtime visitor Mack is planning to return on Saturday, with his family in tow.
Instead of looking for baseball cards, as he did when he was a kid, Mack is on the hunt for old pottery and bicycles now (though he still collects pocket knives). A few years ago, he found a bicycle whistle from the late 1800s.
His daughter, Lily, 7, hunts for her own treasures, too. She likes costume jewelry and old troll dolls.
It's a treasure hunt, Mack said.
“I guess it's an art,” he said.
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