What do you get when you gather ladies who love junk and vintage trailers? A fantastic day of creative fun and endless ideas for unique decorating. That is just what I experienced last Saturday when I attended the Prairie Sisters market at the MetraPark in Billings, Mont. Over 60 vendors from all over Montana and Wyoming set up booths filled with all types of antiques, folk art and vintage items.
When I walked into the Montana Pavilion building, my delighted heart started to race because my vision was filled with wall to wall junk ... lovingly exhibited in open booths, for sale to the packed house of treasure seekers, myself included. The Prairie Sisters was started by Laura Branson and Molly Mortensen out of Missoula from their love of re-purposing everyday junk into unique home decor. A vintage wooden ironing board becomes a living-room side table or a small louvered window shutter, hung as a wall-shelf, can now display collectable plates. One vendor, dressed in her vintage apron, told me that she loved “junkin” ... making something useful and fun out of old items headed to the garbage pile.
“I can see a tall-backed hallway chair in an old wooden door,” said one vendor, who’s booth was filled with such chairs, one complete with back-mirror and coat hooks. “I love taking junk off people’s hands and creating something they will buy back from me for their homes.”
As I wandered the large hall, I saw all types of interesting and creative pieces. Metal bird cages housed flower-filled pots and farm tillage wheels welded into large yard daises. One lady had taken the wooden boxes of old crank-phones and created wonderful jewelry boxes. Another gal had chalk boards of all shapes and sizes, using vintage picture or broken mirror frames. Painting the center area with assorted chalkboard paint, she created a stylish house accent that was useful too.
Tables stacked with farm parts made into crazy yard creatures and bird houses made from an unbelievable variety of junk, amazed me. One lady had a collection of old school-house globes and out-dated teachers maps displayed on tiny little school-desks. She told me that most items were saved from old school houses that were being demolished and that they donated part of their sales to the Montana Hope Project, a program that makes wishes come true for children with sicknesses. Several ladies had vintage clothing for sale, displayed beside lime green wicker porch chairs and coca-cola metal ice-coolers.
I learned the Prairie Sisters vintage “junk roadshow” has been going on for several years in Missoula but that this was the first time in Billings. They will have another event at the Missoula Fairgrounds on May 4 and again on Sept. 14, with a whole new “bunch o’junk” for everyone.
Just outside the main doors of the Montana Pavilion, in the Metra parking lot, several Sisters on the Fly had their vintage trailers open for tours to all the treasure seekers. Carol Wood of Livingston, Mont., welcomed people into her ’59 Winnebago trailer she had named “Hell on Heels.” Her western themed interior boasts a sign posted above the quilted and pillow-filled bed, “Please remove Spurs before getting into Bed.” It goes right along with a “God Bless Cowgirls” heart decal on the back of the little white trailer, just above the rear bumper, skirted in cute lace-ruffled red-hanky material ... “because she likes to feel the wind up her skirt,” Carol laughed.
Diane Ridgway had a dandy decorated trailer she called “Poetry in Motion,” named after the cowboy poet she’d bought the vintage trailer from. Throughout the whole afternoon, hundreds of ladies toured the “homes on the roam,” learning about Sisters on the Fly, a non-profit organization and enjoying how each lady decorated their trailers ... much of with Prairie Sisters type junkin’. With 3,500 plus members nation-wide and growing, Sisters on the Fly welcomes women of all ages, with or without trailers, to come join the fun of sisterhood and female companionship ... along with some fly fishing too.
Wanda Flanagan, the SOTF Northern Rocky Mountain Region Wrangler told me, “We do sometimes let our ‘Mister Sisters’ (husbands or favorite fellas) come to special events, but basically we are a group of women who enjoy fly fishing, decorating our trailers so we can caravan to events and have more fun then anyone! We also work with Casting for Recovery, an organization that sends women, recovering from breast cancer, to fly-fishing camp. There the ladies learn to cast the fly-rod, a movement that has been shown to help in the healing from breast surgery.”
Wanda’s trailer, the Denim Rose is just one example of the unique creative decorating that the Sisters are known for. Inside, her windows sport a ruffled valance made out of “jeans-butts,” complete with rear-pockets, rivets and belt loops. The oven has a hand-made wine holder fitted inside and was holding two bottles of wine.
I have to admit that between the Prairie Sisters and the Sisters on the Fly ladies, I came away from the event inspired ... I think I’ll go see what I can make out of the “junk” pile my cowboy husband has stashed out behind the barn! ❖