I have a somewhat limited tolerance for street and other sorts of park festivals. I suppose I would enjoy them more in the throng of other people of similar age with whom I might attend but in the last few years, I’ve generally found myself wandering about them alone. Varying only slightly depending on the city (NYC, CHI, LSE) and time of day, this has seen me surrounded by people who aren’t wearing quite enough clothing, people who don’t understand being polite in their usage of shared space, overpriced but sometimes quite yummy food, the occasional interesting craft booth, alcohol of various varieties, and loud music that is only sometimes to my taste.

Still, they are popular and with the gorgeous weather we had this weekend, I ventured out to one of the ones here. We have many festivals in this locale, with thousands of Harley-Davidson (and other motorcycle) owners descending upon on last weekend and more festivities forthcoming later in the year. Btw, if you’re coming for Oktoberfest, I need to know in the next month so I can plan accordingly.

After meandering about the current festival, sitting down by the river to enjoy the view, and rejecting the beer tent on the knowledge that I had to drive myself home, I headed back towards my car. I detoured upon seeing an “Antiques” sign on the sidewalk outside of one of the buildings. It is named, my receipt tells me, the Antique Center of La Crosse Ltd.

The city has a number of antique shops both downtown and on the north side. But this was one I’d not been into before and truly, it is a gem that should not be missed.

The buildings on that section of Third Street were all built together–so the north wall of one is the south wall of the next and, while giving you a lovely continuity, it hides the size of the building. One sees cluttered windows from the outside but stepping in–one could be transported.

Now, keep in mind this transportation takes some heavy imagination. Bear with me if you will and picture walking into an extremely successful dry goods type of store from the turn of the century. An enormous room with ceilings probably of the fifteen or twenty feet and a lovely red staircase at the middle back that takes you up first to a mid level room (currently has security system in it) and then another full floor, or down to a basement probably mostly for stock in the old days. The upstairs is sectioned into two rooms while the basement has the damp mustiness that basements almost always seem to have. But coming down the stairs from the second floor you are struck by the magnificence of the staircase, the glorious sunshine streaming in large front windows, the spaciousness of the room–and a strong feeling that there should be floor to ceiling shelves and glass counters where men in collars and vests or neat shop girls are attending men in suit jackets and bowler hats or ladies in long sweeping gowns with Gibson girl hair. I kept waiting to find myself swept at very least into a film set or to have some nice young man with oil slick hair and mustache offering to assist me. Considering I was in a knee length cotton sundress, I would have been most out of place, but the idea suggested by the building was certainly there.

Into this space there are CRAMMED antiques. Thirty-five different independent dealers is what I was told. Their cases are open or locked, stacked or shelved. China cabinets and curio cabinets and everything packed to the gills. Furniture, figurines, china, toys, spoons–not much in the way of costumes or clothing but all other manner of things.

And not a hedgehog in the place. I know. I looked.

Fortunately, I do also collect elephants. This is a much longer standing collection which the Incredibly-Patient-Mother has been helping me develop for years. I have elephants that are representative of many times in my life: the tiny green figurine purchased from a street vendor near the Met, the stuffed elephant received for my senior recital, the elephant creamer from my visit to M last fall, the elephants said Mother brought back from a trip to South Dakota–one on purple stone (amythest or quartz?) and the other carved of a stone that hopefully she’ll identify in the comments (cream ish?).

So here I was sailing through, lost in thoughts about the building and eyes sharply peeled in search of an elephant. There were many that were not what I wanted to follow me home, though I could have easily picked up fifty new pachyderms to add to the herd. Apparently I like Japanese elephant figurines, although one heavy pottery teapot that I picked up was probably the most hideous elephant I’ve ever seen. The elephant looked like a pig with a trunk–white with gold tusks painted on and floral blanket on the back with figure sitting on top. There’s one for sale on ebay at the moment. The one I saw didn’t look that nice and was much more expensive.

I did come away with five new elephants. One, which isn’t photographing well, is a Wade Whimsie. Another is glass–which my camera is not pleased to show off. But I will share the coolest one that followed me home. It’s a mug, though I won’t be drinking out of it anytime soon, and it’s was made in Occupied Japan–according to the bottom.

Indulge me my adoration of elephants. Isn’t he cute?