Texas Traveler: Livingston Trade Days

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Photos by Brittanie Shey
Good eats: armadillo eggs and homemade banana pudding

If the span of time between the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo in spring and the State Fair of Texas in fall is just too long for you, you can satisfy your lust for the unnecessary consumption of crap at least once a month at Livingston Trade Days, a giant fair midway without the fair in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

Livingston Trade Days, a year-round event on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the third Monday each month (got that?), is actually more like a really big flea market. A flea market you might drive 80 miles for.

Sellers set up camp in Pedigo Park, located right off U.S. 59 in the heart of Livingston, under two large covered pavilions and on the surrounding grounds. When the weather is good, vendors might drive from neighboring states, hoping to go home with a lighter load and a heavier wallet. Sellers hawk everything from handmade goods (one woman was selling her home-brewed goats' milk soap) to the kind of things you might find on late night television (ShamWows). A guy whose booth featured metal detectors set up a side business selling sterling silver jewelry. Inside the glass jewelry case was a hand-written sign: "All of this TREASURE was found with a metal detector!"

But Texas Traveler isn't gonna lie. Maybe flea markets aren't your kind of thing. It does, after all, take a certain kind of patience to dig through that haystack to find the solid-gold needle. Thankfully, the small town and seat of Polk County offers more than just junk shopping, making it a perfect day trip from the big city.

Pedigo Park is just north of the intersection of 59 and HWY 190 (called Church Street in town). Across the highway from the park are a couple of locally-owned restaurants where you can get decent soul food and Mexican. Lake Livingston is known as the Catfish Capitol, so stop here for some fried fillets for lunch.

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Fain Theater: still screening shows
Head east just a few miles on Church St. and you'll get to Livingston's still-quaint downtown. There are some modest antiques malls; but better yet, have a look at the Fain Theater a block north, still standing in all its art-deco glory. Or find the downtown cemetery -- final resting place of several Confederate soldiers -- and read about how Livingston was once part of Mexican territory.

West of town you'll find more local flea markets -- sellers set up in rotting trailers and corrugated metal shacks. But an absence of turnover (unlike Trade Days) means a higher likelihood of finding something valuable. And a higher likelihood of hearing two bored old men bitch about the news. There are also farmers' markets and bait shops, since you're getting close to Lake Livingston, arguably the city's biggest attraction.

At 30 miles long, it's also the second-largest lake in Texas. The park's website claims it's "never crowded" but we'd argue that. Still, the stretch from town to the lake and further west is the prettiest and most interesting part of the drive, and you'll be at no loss for barbecue restaurants or grills to stop and have a bite to eat, or roadside shops to dig for more treasures.

The next Livingston Trade Days will be this weekend, May 15-17. It should be warm enough for swimming, too.

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Shey is an experienced blogger, social media expert and traveler. She studied journalism at Oklahoma State University before working as a full-time reporter for Houston Community Newspapers in 2005. She lived in South Korea for three years, where she worked as a freelancer.
Contact: Brittanie Shey