- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

ROME, Ga. (AP) - Kenneth Wheeler used to crawl through a hole in a fence to get to the Rome Trade Day Flea Market.

That was when the Darlington Drive flea market didn’t have the parking it does today. Wheeler was 4 years old, and as he grew older he sold hound dogs and calves when the market still allowed it.

Now 66, Wheeler used a cane as he walked through the flea market on its last day on Aug. 12.

“That got to me,” he said of the market’s closing. “I’ve been coming down here on Wednesday for 60 years.”

TC Williams, who walked alongside Wheeler, has been a flea market regular for 20 years.

“It’s part of Rome,” he said.

Vendors lined the dusty roads that weave through the flea market, as they did on every Wednesday. Their wares sat under shade or in the open sun. CDs, clothes, fruit and vegetables were all for sale.

Junior Pace, who sells produce, stood underneath a small pavilion waiting for business. A customer approached, pulled some bills and made his purchase.

Peaches and plums are the most popular this time of year, Pace said. He’s been selling produce at the flea market since 1980, and learned about its closing last week.

“It was a shock,” Pace said. “I hate to see it close up.”

The Darlington Drive flea market is closing, but its vendors have the option to move to 2603 Alabama Highway. Pace hasn’t decided if he’ll make the move, though he noted he has no other location.

According to Floyd County Superior Court records, Coosa Steel Corp. bought the land on Aug. 7. A Coosa Steel representative couldn’t be reached for comment.

Jimmy Casey, who sells flowers for gravesites, has only been at Rome Trade Day a few times. It’s likely he’ll relocate to the new flea market.

“It’s fixing to be flower season,” he said.

Vehicles lined up at the market’s entrance the morning of Aug. 12, waiting to pay their dollar parking fee. David Easterwood and Eddie Segura walked from car to car collecting the fee and sharing news of the closure.

“I was sad,” Easterwood said, taking a break in the shade. “I have a lot of friends here. I’ve met a lot of good people.

“The flea market will not exist any longer. That’ll be it,” he added.

Continuing his stroll through the market, Wheeler said he’s interested in shopping with vendors when they move to the new location.

“You get attached to the vendors,” he said. “You look at them as friends.”


Information from: Rome News-Tribune, https://www.romenews-tribune.com

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