HILLSVILLE, Va. — While the annual Labor Day Gun Show & Flea Market offers bargains, collectibles, food and much more, Carroll County’s biggest event also brings a massive influx of people to Hillsville.
There are many ways to make the four-day event go smoother, said Hillsville Police Chief Greg Bolen, who will be in charge of the town’s police force for the first time this year during the Labor Day Gun Show & Flea Market.
“Some of the things we are going to try to work on this year will be better than last year or any year prior,” Bolen said. “We are going to try to get more information out to the public about where the police officers will be stationed, where rescue personnel will be stationed, and better areas for traffic patterns.”
Anyone traveling on U.S. 58 during the Labor Day weekend can expect delays as traffic flow through Hillsville will be backed up at length. However, Bolen reminds everyone that the U.S. 58 Bypass is open and is an easy way to go around the town.
“That will alleviate a lot of the traffic congestion,” Bolen said.
Bolen said the Hillsville Police Department will have officers stationed at West Grayson Street throughout the Flea Market and periodically at the intersection of Veterans Street and U.S. 58, as well as the intersection of Howlett Street and U.S. 58.
“We will also have officers toward the top of the four lane (on U.S. 58 headed toward Interstate 77) where the speed limit changes from 35 to 55. There’s a lot of traffic congestion as well as pedestrian traffic, which warrants more concern,” Bolen said.
Officers will also be patrolling all town areas, including the VFW lot, Hundley’s Bottom, the Bowman Festival lot, Riley’s lot, etc. The town police department will also bring back a bicycle patrol to help work the Flea Market this year.
“There will be officers on foot, in vehicles and on bikes this year,” Bolen said. “VDOT will also have message boards describing traffic patterns for motorists. At the intersection of (U.S.) 52 and (U.S.) 58, we will have the no left turn lane on that side, so if you are traveling 52 North you will not be able to make a left turn onto 58 West. Motorists should be prepared for that. We’ve also requested some cameras from VDOT to post in some key locations so we can monitor traffic patterns. They are live patterns, not recorded, and we feel that will be more beneficial.”
As far as actual shopping, Bolen wants to make sure the public is aware there are many knockoff and counterfeit items that come through the Flea Market each year.
“We try to combat that the best we can, but usually with an event like this all sales are final, so be leery. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is,” Bolen said. “The DVDs and handbags are two of the main problems. The biggest thing we watch for is the illegal weapons they bring to sell. The reason we monitor that, some of them unfortunately sell to children, and you have some of them buying switchblades and throwing stars and things like that that are illegal in Virginia.”
Bolen said the police department will be updating its Facebook page with important items to know about the Flea Market. For instance, he said restrictions for vendors will be updated on the site soon. Most vendors will be allowed to sell from 7 a.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Monday, but food vendors are allowed to sell at 6 a.m. on Thursday, and parking vendors can charge to park at the same time.
Rescue personnel will be standing by at the VFW building on Veterans Street and other areas. If the case of an emergency, Bolen urges people to call 9-1-1 or the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office at 276-728-4146. Information of where to find officers, rescue personnel and free water stations will also be updated soon on the Hillsville Police Department’s Facebook page, he said.
Changes this year
Flea Market Manager Andy Bowman is excited about changes for this year’s Labor Day Gun Show & Flea Market, which he says will make things smoother for vendors, customers and VFW Post 1115 members alike.
One of the biggest changes this year will be a different entrance for handicapped parking.
“We’ve put it at an angle. Now you come through Gate 5 and go directly into it rather than having to go behind vendors. You go straight into the handicapped area in Gate 5,” Bowman said. “It makes it a lot easier for handicapped parking, and it will be fully marked.”
A new walk-in entry gate has also been added on the west end of the parking lot. Bowman said the new entry gate would help take traffic off the hill as well as congestion off Gates 1 and 2.
Additionally, a change in exit gates on Set Up Day should make things much easier on vendors, Bowman said. There will be five exits on Set Up Day, Thursday, for people to get back on top of the hill to park in, he added.
“All the ones on the paved area will be coming out on U.S. 58. They will come up to the stoplight, hang a right and go to the church and come back in,” Bowman said. “The ones in the first grass section, Rows 1-10, will exit out onto Veterans Street, come down to 58 and around. It will make it so much easier rather than having to go back through all that traffic coming in to get out.”
Bowman said vendors could also now come into the VFW on Tuesday to park a van or trailer in their space. The vehicle could be left in the space and vendors would be allowed to return Thursday to set up.
“It makes it so much easier. There will be a lot less traffic. They can just come in to the vendor parking and walk down and do their setup,” said Bowman.
Wednesday will be regular vendor tent day, he said, where vendors will be allowed to put up their tents, unload their items under the tent, cover them, and then leave and come back for set up Thursday.
“Sales will not start until 7 a.m. Friday morning for any person, anywhere. No sales, no trading. No live animals can be sold,” Bowman said. “No pets are allowed inside the VFW compound at all except helper dogs.”