I Miss Flea World

I live in Orlando, so occasionally, I’m going to write something a little specific. Today is one of those days.

Everyone knows Walt Disney World, but way on the other side of Central Florida, about an hour’s drive north of WDW, was a place with a whole different kind of magic – Flea World. America’s “largest flea market under one roof,” Flea World was only open on weekends – a great place to wander, look at all the weird stuff for sale, and look at all the weird people buying it.

Sunday was my day. I’d drive to Sanford, get a giant draft beer around 10am, and start walking. Live birds and fresh pickles, car stereos and haircuts, bootleg “Scarface” t-shirts and trail mix by the pound. It was all laid out in rows and rows and rows and rows of open-air stalls. My big thing was to go through all the used CDs. I’d usually leave with two or three – plus some weird Chinese knock-off action figure and a pack of Tiger Blood incense.

There might be a trained dog act or a juggler and you could definitely get a decent burger or corn dog.

My friend Beth used to work there and I asked her about my memory of a giant cage of coins in the middle of a pathway. I remembered it as something like a thousand dollars in pennies or a million dollars in quarters, but she confirms it was “one ton of money.” Beth also gave me scans of some old Flea World ads that are part of the photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

I could only handle Flea World’s sensory overload every couple of months, madness in the best way. You’d see families still in their church clothes, chain-smokers in three different camo patterns, and super-tan stretch pants grannies. It all shut down in August of 2015 and the Flea World land is probably going to be developed, but last I checked, it was still just open land. Maybe we need more condos and storage facilities – maybe – but Flea World was something that will never be duplicated.