SHERIDAN — Down in Sheridan, a unique flea market takes place every year. Born in a Barn often welcomes thousands of guests to shop at the uncommon market and enjoy food, drinks, and music.
You won’t find things like what's for sale at Born in a Barn just anywhere, which is why thousands of people from across the country make a trip out to the ranch outside Sheridan, located at 415 Highway 14 East, every September for the annual event.
“We moved out here to this place about 16 years ago, and I was a town girl. I just didn’t know what to do out here. I loved garage sales and I loved antiques and all that kind of stuff. So I said, 'Hey, let’s get a group of friends together and we’ll have a little sale out here.' The first one was me and five others. It was literally over there in the little red barnyard, and now it’s this entire property. We’ve got 50 acres and three pastures that we park, it’s just huge. We have cowboys directing you to your parking spot, and they’re very handsome," said Shelley Kinnison, the creator of Born in a Barn, on Friday. “I have vendors here from Washington and Wisconsin. I have vendors here that only do this show. This is the only place you will find them."
What began 13 years ago in Kinnison's Wyoming barn as a small garage sale with friends has now grown into one of the most unique and talked about flea markets in the country.
“Last year with children, probably about 8,000 (attendees)," Kinnison said. "I always say, ‘I’m a little bit busy this weekend. I’m having a party for 8,000.'"
Kinnison is the mastermind behind it all.
"I’ve got 95 vendors, a food field, beer garden, and cocktails," Kinnison said. “The product is a huge part of it, and I’m very particular about the jewelry, the bags. Everything that comes in here is my choice."
She started the sale in 2011 with just six vendors. Now it’s a community staple.
You'll find everything from rare antiques to upcycled and refurbished items.
But for Kinnison, the family-run operation is about a lot more than just making a sale.
"I wanted this to feel like a reunion. People don’t do family reunions anymore. But this is a reunion in many different parts. Reunion for the vendors, because they’re excited to see each other. It’s a reunion for the customers because they plan trips around this. And then the vendors and the customers have a reunion. It’s the best party ever, and you don’t have to invite relatives that you don’t like,” Kinnison said. “My daughters are at the gate table where we charge $5, just to cover all of the costs that come with this. My mom and dad, who are in their 80s, they’re the stampers. They need to have a job. And then my best friend runs my clothing booth, and my best friend from high school comes every year, spends the whole week and helps me. So yeah, it’s all family. And if you aren’t family, then I make you be family."
Kinnison says those who come as strangers leave as family, which is something 20-year-old vendor Luke Knudson certainly knows.
“I’ve done this show for about five years. Shelley’s a friend of mine. I’ve always enjoyed it," Knudson said on Friday. "I’ve done very well. It’s a great venue, it’s the only one I do, actually. It’s the most worth it for all of the work that goes into it."
Knudson started selling antiques at Born in a Barn when he was only 15.
“The venue is gorgeous and the turnout is always exponential. I see a lot of people that I know from various aspects of what I do in Sheridan, but a lot of new people too," Knudson said. "I know this draws a crowd from all over the country, which is quite exciting, and there’s very few events in the area that do that.”
First-time vendors were equally excited for this year.
“This is my first year at the Born in a Barn. I make all of this jewelry. So it’s all handmade, most of the stones are American-mined," said Becki Butterfield, the owner of B. Butterfield Metalworks, on Friday. “I think it’s just such a unique place with all of these collections of vendors that are really passionate about what they made, and the repurposed stuff that they find to sell. It’s just, nothing like it on earth."
To top it all off, the event also raises money for the Welch Cancer Center in Sheridan, selling $10 mimosas.
"Quite a while ago, we started a campaign where we would raise money for the Welch Cancer Foundation here in Sheridan. And in particular, I wanted to raise money for breast cancer because my mom had it twice and they took really good care of her. And she’s 83, and she’s still with us. So we started selling mimosas for $10, and it’s grown so much," Kinnison said. "The first year I maybe raised $1,000, last year we raised $9,000. Our goal this year is $10,000. They come in this cup, and this year we have a sponsor for our cups. He’s American Outfitters (Tony Larson), and he’s one of the cowboys out in the field."
For Kinnison, it's a way to give back to the community she holds so close to her heart.
“When you are blessed enough to live in Sheridan, Wyoming, you’ve got to give it back. And this is my give-back,” Kinnison said. “If anybody’s thinking about coming, come! It’s an experience and an event you’ll never find anywhere else."
The event continues Saturday. Gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Anyone over 12 must pay the $5 gate fee to enter.
To learn more about Born in a Barn, click here.