While back in Florida for Thanksgiving I had a chance to revisit the Auburndale International Market. Over the years I have not only witnessed, but been a part of, this market’s growth and change. Barely a weekend went by that I was not a customer, roaming the lanes in seach of cheap vegetables and one of a kind deals. I was once a vendor there myself, renting a coveted space and table to sell my backlog of VHS tapes from my video rental business of days gone by. The people I met, bought from and sold to, reinforced my appreciation for this gathering place of common and odd merchandise.
Once a few concrete rows shielded from the Florida sun by aluminum roofing with simple wooden tables piled with rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and citrus… the market is now made up of huge steel buildings, tents and canopied stalls, and areas once for parking converted into rentable spaces. It is a huge, sprawling affair, with a circus tent and native American dance rituals, country music festivals, pony rides and alligator petting zoos. The fruits and vegetables are still there, but they are just an entree to vendors who sell everything imaginable, from purses and wallets to tools and kitchen untensils, to CDs, DVDs, and VHS, to piles of smartass tshirts and cheap women’s underwear, to water softeners and automobile parts, to home made jewelery and bedazzled sweaters. It is an irresistable guilty pleasure to stroll up and down what feel like endless stalls of borderline junk to uncover those few diamonds in the rough. And there are always boiled peanuts, funnel cakes, corn dogs, fresh roasted corn and toasted pecans to snack on while shopping.
We purused the fruits and veggies, buying some plums that were as big as baseballs but not as big on flavor, some local gallberry honey, tangerines, bell peppers, and a huge pomelo that was sweet and tart and just blushed with color. Prices were good, and as always a little price battle could be found going on amongst the marketers. The further we went downt the isle, the lower the price of watermelons became. I haven’t had a good watermelon since August, so I did not buy one. But it was a very nice day for checking out the market, and a nostalgic tour as well.