While the annual Labor Day Gun Show & Flea Market offers bargains, collectibles, great food and much more, Carroll County’s biggest event also brings a massive influx of people to Hillsville.
There are many ways to make the four-day event go smoother for you and everyone else, said Hillsville Police Chief Greg Bolen, who will be in charge of the town’s police force for the first time this year during the Labor Day Gun Show & Flea Market.
“Some of the things we are going to try to work on this year will be better than last year or any year prior,” Bolen said. “We are going to try to get more information out to the public about where the police officers will be stationed, where rescue personnel will be stationed, and better areas for traffic patterns.”
Of course, if you are traveling on U.S. 58 at any point during the Labor Day weekend, you can expect delays as traffic flow through Hillsville will be backed up at length. However, Bolen reminds everyone that the U.S. 58 Bypass is open again this year and is a great way to go around the town if you don’t have to go through the middle of Hillsville.
“That will alleviate a lot of the traffic congestion,” Bolen said.
Bolen said the Hillsville Police Department will have officers stationed at West Grayson Street throughout the Flea Market and periodically at the intersection of Veterans Street and U.S. 58, as well as the intersection of Howlett Street and U.S. 58.
“We will also have officers toward the top of the four lane (on U.S. 58 headed toward Interstate 77) where the speed limit changes from 35 to 55. There’s a lot of traffic congestion as well as pedestrian traffic, which warrants more concern,” Bolen said.
Officers will also be patrolling all town areas, including the VFW lot, Hundley’s Bottom, the Bowman Festival lot, Riley’s lot, etc. The town police department will also bring back a bicycle patrol to help work the Flea Market this year.
“There will be officers on foot, in vehicles and on bikes this year,” Bolen said. “VDOT will also have message boards describing traffic patterns for motorists. At the intersection of (U.S.) 52 and (U.S.) 58, we will have the no left turn lane on that side, so if you are traveling 52 North you will not be able to make a left turn onto 58 West. Motorists should be prepared for that. We’ve also requested some cameras from VDOT to post in some key locations so we can monitor traffic patterns. They are live patterns, not recorded, and we feel that will be more beneficial.”
As far as actual shopping, Bolen wants to make sure the public is aware there are many “knockoff and counterfeit” items that come through the Flea Market each year.
“We try to combat that the best we can, but usually with an event like this all sales are final, so be leery. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is,” Bolen said. “The DVDs and handbags are two of the main problems. The biggest thing we watch for is the illegal weapons they bring to sell. The reason we monitor that, some of them unfortunately sell to children, and you have some of them buying switchblades and throwing stars and things like that that are illegal in Virginia.”
Bolen said the Hillsville Police Department will be updating its Facebook page with important items to know about the Flea Market. For instance, he said restrictions for vendors will be updated on the site soon. Most vendors will be allowed to sell from 7 a.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Monday, but food vendors are allowed to sell at 6 a.m. on Thursday, and parking vendors can charge to park at the same time.
Rescue personnel will be standing by at the VFW building on Veterans Street and other areas. If the case of an emergency, Bolen urges people to call 9-1-1 or the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 728-4146. Information of where to find officers, rescue personnel and free water stations will also be updated soon on the Hillsville Police Department’s Facebook page, he said.