The VFW Labor Day Gun Show and Flea Market, which has been held every Labor Day weekend for the past 45 years, has a reputation for being a place you can find just about anything. The problem is, sometimes that thing you’ve been dying to purchase may not be legit. It may be a counterfeit, so be careful of what you buy when the show begins Friday, Aug. 31.
“It varies from year to year,” said Hillsville Police Chief Jason Hawks of the counterfeit items that unscrupulous vendors pass of as legitimate. “CDs, DVDs, clothing, sunglasses, T-shirts and high-dollar pocketbooks are usually among the most common items.”
Hawks said he and his officers do their best to protect the public, but with so much area to cover, it’s not easy.
“Before the flea market starts, we go around and scope it out,” said Hawks. “If we see something we think is counterfeit, depending on the item, we tell the vendor to put it up and don’t let us see you selling it again. If we see it back out, the items will be confiscated and the vendor may be charged.”
Hawks advises visitors to the flea market to adhere to the old adage “If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t.”
“Those vendors are good salesmen. If it’s a $500 pocketbook and they’re asking $30, it’s counterfeit. If they’re asking $100 or $200, it’s probably counterfeit,” said Hawks.
Counterfeit items are not the only illegal merchandise for sale at the flea market, however.
“Brass knuckles and spring-loaded knives, some call them switchblades, may not be counterfeit, but they are illegal. It’s an every year thing, but they’ve gotten to be a smaller problem over the years,” said Hawks.
Crime is relatively low too, according to Hawks.
“There’s going to be shoplifting, and we have calls of larceny. Violence is not too bad, most of the time it’s just a case of someone who has had too much to drink.”
“Our population is somewhere around 2,400 people normally, but with the flea market it swells to 100,000 per day, maybe more,” so we see more of everything.
Hawks said he especially appreciates CVS Pharmacy allowing the police department to set up their “command center” in their parking lot, and points out that the rescue squads are “strategically placed in order to attend to medical situations, such as falls, heat and other medical problems.”
Hawks added that he also appreciates the support the police department receives from town employees.
“The town council, the mayor, everybody at town hall are a big help. They give us a lot of support, and always there when we need them.”
Although for most people the flea market is a fun way to spend the Labor Day weekend, it’s one of the busiest times of the year for the Hillsville Police Department.
“We really have to adjust our schedule. It’s the one time of the year when nobody gets off for anything. Everybody works at least eight hours a day,” said Hawks, adding that they can rely on help from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department for help if the police department should need it.
The biggest problem, according to Hawks, is traffic.
“Most local people are going to know the side streets they can use to avoid heavy traffic, but those from out of town sometimes get overwhelmed. The center lane (on U.S. 58) is an emergency lane, but some mistake it for a passing lane. Most of our problems deal with illegal parking to cars bumping into each other in the parking lots to key getting locked up in cars, and, last year, we had some issues with people leaving their pet locked up in their cars.”
The main thing Hawks stresses for those visiting the flea market is to have patience.
“Everybody needs to just be patient with the traffic. Detours are advertised if you don’t know your way around town and want to avoid traffic. Be patient with the officers, it’s stressful on them too. We just want everybody to be safe and enjoy it.”
Although Hawks said the flea market presents a challenge for his police department, he adds, “It’s good to see it coming because it’s good for the town. But it’s also good to see it go.”