By John Clark
Pack up the kids, the car and a comfortable pair of walking shoes this weekend and treat yourself to one of the most unique shopping experiences in the state of Texas — First Monday Trade Days in Canton.
Each month, on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the first Monday, tens of thousands of bargain hunters descend on the 100-acre facility just east of Dallas that is billed as “the world’s largest outdoor market,” with spaces for as many as 6,000 vendors.
Some of the items you may find include home décor, clothing, jewelry, furniture, health, food, western, children, art, bed and breakfast, antiques, kitchen, lodging, toys, signs, scooters, mantles, yard art, restaurant, cabinets, sports, rugs, candles, knives and stained glass.
Sun-up to sundown, rain or shine, the market at 800 First Monday Lane in Canton is scheduled to open for business Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. Next month, Trade Days is slated for Feb. 28 to March 3, and then every Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday throughout the year.
To get there from Killeen, take Interstate 35 north through Waco, then Interstate 20 east to the city of Canton, roughly a three-hour drive.
Officials say the best day to shop and avoid crowds is on Thursday or Friday. Plan on spending at least several hours and possibly all day long to see as much of the market as possible. Bargaining with vendors is allowed, and comfortable walking shoes — not flip-flops or dress shoes — are highly recommended. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on a leash and owners are required to clean up after them.
A stroller or a wagon can help make Trade Days a more pleasant experience for children, and an umbrella can come in handy on warm, sunny days.
According to firstmondaycanton.com, the legendary market got its start back in the 1850s, when the circuit judge stopped in Canton to hold court on the first Monday of every month. People came to town to watch court proceedings, stock up on supplies and also to sell or trade things like livestock and produce on the courthouse square, and even witness a hanging or two.
By 1965, First Monday had outgrown the town square and the city bought six acres of lands just north of the courthouse.
If exploring Trade Days doesn’t wear you out, check out The Mountain, an old west town two blocks east of downtown Canton that features 1800s-style gun fight shows on Saturday and Sunday, singers, restaurants and late-night shopping.
Many shop owners dress in authentic period clothing, and overnight lodging is available. According to the website, cantonmountain.com, a Civil War re-enactment of the “Battle for Old Mill Station” is scheduled Feb. 1-3.
Closer to home, Central Texas College’s Mayborn Science Theater continues its slate of planetarium programs. Weekday matinees are scheduled at 3:30 p.m. each Wednesday. For information about show schedules, memberships, directions and more, go to starsatnight.org.
Anyone feeling a little artsy-craftsy can head on over to Fort Hood’s Apache Arts and Crafts Center, open Tuesday through Saturday for a variety of do-it-yourself projects, including picture frames, ceramics and ceramics birthday parties for kids. Contact MWR for more information.
For the more athletically-inclined, Killeen’s Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park offers a variety of high-flying attractions.
With almost too many activities to mention all in one place, the complex at 2102 Jennifer Drive, between West Jasper Drive and U.S. Highway 190, includes not only trampoline-jumping, but such things as a Sky Rider indoor coaster, ropes course, climbing walls, obstacle course, tubes playground, trapeze, dodgeball and slam dunk zone.
For more information on the park, go to www.urbanairtrampolinepark.com/locations/texas/killeen.