Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art Show celebrates 45 years

Photograph by Kathryn Fraser

The small box exhibition at the 45th annual Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art Show in 2018

For a quarter of a century, the husband and wife duo Bill Dobson and Linda Hynes, have organized Durham Region’s most unique heritage antique show.

The Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art show is considered to be one of Canada’s highest quality antique shows.

Every year, the show focuses on Canadiana objects and utilitarian folk art, prior to 1900.

“This show has so many great examples of Canadiana, that it’s better than a museum,” said Dobson. “If you go to a museum, you can’t touch [an antique]. Here, you can look at it, you can pick it up, you can talk to the dealer. Talk about the history of the piece, who made it, what was the origin, where is the provenance and if you really like it, you can buy it and take it home and enjoy it.”

Dobson said the 22 dealers at the show are “generous with their knowledge.”

He said all the items at the show are carefully vetted. Dobson said vetters look specifically for the object’s origin, finish, age and provenance, or the object’s chronology of ownership.

Dobson said vetters who have been in the business for a long time check every single booth and leave sticky notes on questionable antiques. The sticky notes offer suggestions or corrections about the item’s history to the dealer.

“When people come here, they can buy with confidence that it’s been checked by people who have been around for a long time,” said Dobson.

Items that are vetted but are not for purchase belong to the antique show’s special exhibit.

Three years ago, the show started a special exhibit that features themed collections of items. This year’s exhibition? Small boxes.

Detailed and ornate boxes ranging from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, and everywhere in between, were on display.

They are primarily used for decoration or for storing small items.

Chris Spick, a furniture enthusiast, said the boxes represent Canadian multiculturalism.

“The small box exhibition we put together to inspire and educate people on what’s out there and available in the market today,” said Spick. “It’s a national exhibition of ethnic diversity.”

Dobson and Hynes have been in charge of the event for 25 years. Dobson said he and his wife do 99 per cent of the planning before the show.

“There’s a lot of planning but it does get easier,” said Dobson. “After you’ve done it for 25 years, it falls into place. When one show is over, you have to start working on the next one.”

However, changes are on the horizon. Spick, Adrian Tinline and Ben Lennox are taking over the organization of the show. They have already started planning for next year.

All three owners said they want to keep the integrity and tradition of the show the same as previous years. 

“We would like to bring [the show] into a more tech-savvy market, approach a younger crowd,” said Spick. “The integrity and value of the show is not going to change. There’s a lot of deep-seeded tradition in this show. You go home with a piece of Canada.”