The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 28, 2013

Pioneer Power Swap Meet gets sunny days

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

LE SUEUR — The Pioneer Power Swap Meet in rural Le Sueur has produced plenty of memorable installments in its 36 years, but the wacky weather of spring 2013 has placed this one in a special category.

The event successfully concluded its four-day run Sunday amid a spate of balmy spring sessions, but the days leading up to Thursday’s opening had organizers and vendors in a sweat.

“I came here Wednesday to get in line and there was 4 inches of snow on the ground,” Le Center odds and ends seller Bill Washa said.

He pointed to the nearby acreage where hundreds of vendors had been parked for up to two weeks in order to claim coveted selling spots.

“Half the lot was snow and the other half was mud. A lot of guys had to get towed in with tractors.”

Over in the registration building, meet campground manager Jim Koralesky was counting his blessings following some anxious moments of late.

“One-and-a-half weeks ago we were wondering if we were even going to have the show.”

But as if on cue, the weather took a turn for normalcy late in the week, and in sunny 70-degree temperatures on Friday the largest swap meet of its kind in the upper Midwest was absolutely besieged.

“Cars were lined for three miles and there was a two-hour wait to get in,” Koralesky said.

Moreover, the show’s 112 available golf carts people rent to traverse the 120-acre site were snapped up immediately, and some vendors with smaller inventories sold out right away.

The swap meet 6 miles east of Le Sueur is an annual carnival of sellers offering everything from vintage Three Stooges lunch boxes to rusty tractor rims to 20-pound sacks of potatoes.

That many of the wares look like they’ve been moldering in a farm grove the past 50 years is of no consequence, said Washa, a 10-year  vendor at the show.

Washa’s inventory is purposely and wildly eclectic because he’s learned there’s a buyer for everything — and a lot of those people angle for buys.

“You get a lot of nickel-dimers,” he said. “You’ll have something for 50 cents and they’ll offer you a quarter — and then they pay with a $20 bill.”

Unlike many of the show’s vendors, who come from nearly every state and travel on the national swap meet circuit, Washa sells only once a year at the Le Sueur show, apparently more for fun than profit.

“If a guy can make $500, that’s $500 more than he came with,” he said philosophically.

The Pioneer Power Swap Meet annually attracts 650-1,000 vendors. Attendance counts aren’t kept at the free event.