Turning Junk into Treasures in Omaha | Midwest Living
More
Close

Turning Junk into Treasures in Omaha

An old white wooden door, with chipped paint and idle hinges, gets new life with a strip of black chalkboard paint down the center and a scrawl of chalk. “All it takes is a great mind,” it announces. “And a pile of junk.”

Twice a year, Junkstock upcycles an old Omaha, Nebraska, dairy farm into a haven for shoppers seeking repurposed, vintage, retro and antique goods. More than 100 vendors from eight states set up among retired silos and weathered barns on a century-old farm, somehow still standing in suburban west Omaha.

You find things like vintage garden hose reels made into wine racks and Western leather belts fashioned into cuff bracelets. A rusted-out car becomes a rustic flower bed. Turquoise and slate gray paint reinvigorate antique furniture, and air plants dot an old card catalog. Retro coolers, glassware, rhinestone jewelry, metal alphabet letters, vintage flash cards and more fill booth after booth.

Junkstock got its start after organizer Sara Alexander and her husband renovated a foreclosed home. Sara, a stay-at-home mom, ferreted out flea-market finds to decorate her home with unique items on a budget–and bought more than she needed.

“I love the thrill of the hunt, meeting people, hearing the stories and having the adventure,” she says. “If I saw a good bargain, I couldn’t leave it behind.”

Sara was inspired by kindred spirits when she sold her leftover decor at Des Moines’ Junk Jubilee. In 2011, she launched the Junque Factory to hold sales every six weeks or so in a chicken coop on the old farm. Now she only hosts Junkstock, a three-day event in June and October that covers the whole farmstead.

Junkstock flaunts its hippie theme, Peace Love and Junk, with a VW bus as an entrance sign and a peace sign made of painted used tires on an old barn.

On a June weekend, thousands of people–including hipster couples in retro duds and klatches of baby boomers–strolled the hilly grass and gravel grounds. A banjo duet ripped through “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on a stage next to an aging barn. Junk Hunks–teen boys on golf carts–ferried purchases to customers’ cars parked in nearby fields. 

One Junkstocker said to another: “How do you think Dad would feel about putting a deer on the wall that he didn’t shoot?” Answer: “I feel like he would be offended.”

Only days earlier, the crew prepping the Junkstock site uncovered a massive bees nest in an old tree. Many people would hire an exterminator. Sara brought in a bee charmer who smoked out 5,000 of them and relocated them to his bee farm.

See, even pests can be repurposed. All it takes is a great mind.

More information: junkstockomaha.com.  The fall 2014 sale will be held October 10-12.

Want to receive weekly digests of the midCetera blog? E-mail blog@midwestliving.com with the subject line "Subscribe."