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Automotive extravaganza

Posted on February 6, 2019 by Lethbridge Sun Times
Photo submitted by the southern alberta antique and classic automobile club Automotive enthusiasts gather at the annual Early Bird Swap Meet put on by the Southern Alberta Antique and Classic Automobile Club. This year’s Swap Meet is scheduled for Feb. 16 at Exhibition Park.

Mike and Barb Yakubowski
Southern Alberta Antique and Classic Automobile Club
If you are interested in vintage and classic automobiles or need parts for ones you are restoring, or are looking for things like motorbike parts and accessories, antiques, vintage clothing, collectibles, old toys, signs, or countless other things both new or “old,” you’ll want to attend the Southern Alberta Antique and Classic Automobile Club’s Early Bird Swap Meet on Saturday, Feb. 16.
It is at Lethbridge’s Exhibition Park and literally fills all four pavilions. It is open to the public from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The cost of admission is $5 per person for anyone over 16 years of age. (Cash only, please.)
The Swap Meet has changed a lot since the first Early Bird Swap Meet in 1976, which was held in a garage belonging to one of the club members. Back then it was a two-day meet (plus a work-bee-type day to get the garage ready for the sale). The women made a lot of the profit by selling sandwiches and other snacks they had made.
Like today, tables were rented out. There was negotiating and swapping going on but often no money changed hands.
For a few years prior to the Early Bird Swap Meet, there was an interclub meet, a joint effort between the Alberta Pioneer Auto Club of Calgary and the Southern Alberta Antique and Classic Automobile Club. It was held in Vulcan. Because it was indoors, it could be held regardless of the weather, similar to the Early Bird Swap Meet on Feb. 16. Through the years “old” vehicle enthusiasts have been a hardy bunch and have always loved their swap meets. In the early years of the club, the trunks of their cars were filled with treasures to swap with others at club events such as wiener roasts. They even drove to Crowsnest Lake for Interprovincial Swap Meets where they met with antique car enthusiasts from B.C. and swapped items from suitcases and the trunks of their cars. Often members went home with more than they came with.
In the 1980s the Early Bird Swap Meet started being held in a pavilion at the Lethbridge Exhibition Grounds. It took over more of the space as it grew in size. In 2007, the space in the west pavilion was added to the Swap Meet. That has enabled the Swap Meet to grow to the size it is today with over 200 vendors renting over 430 table or car stalls for the event. Every building is filled to capacity.
It is a one-day meet now but during that day 4,000 to 5,000 people come for something specific or just to look around. They come from all over Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Yukon and Montana. For many, it is an opportunity to visit with people with similar interests, who have been attending the meet for years. Some people wear sign boards indicating the specific thing they need for the projects they are working on. Others come with carts or wagons for transporting the treasures they buy.
Attending the Early Bird Swap Meet is an interesting experience. It’s amazing to see the variety of things at the meet. Come and experience it for yourselves! For more information, call 403-381-6971.

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