The annual Spring Carlisle automotive swap meet, auction, car corral, and mud festival could be described as five days of either gear head heaven or hell, depending on your point of view.
With 8,100 vending spaces and other events spread out over 82 acres of the Carlisle Fairgrounds in the middle of the Pennsylvania heartland, the purchasing opportunities for all things old and automotive are staggering. So are many of the attendees, between the sheer size of the place and being weighed down with a ’56 Ford differential or some other hard to find and cumbersome hunk of rust.
Whatever you’re looking for, the chances are it’s here somewhere. The challenge is to find it. A throwback to another time, Carlisle is not computerized for your convenience. Google maps will not guide you to a taillight lens for a ’66 Chrysler, and there’s nary a bar code reader in sight.
The only way to find what you’re after is to dig. Most vendors either spread their wares out on tarps, hang them from their trucks, or just spread out of boxes for attendees to root through while the shopkeeper relaxes with an Old Milwaukee or six. But if the vendor is around and conscious, chances are they know exactly what they have and where it is.
Carlisle is worth a visit even if you’re not in the classic car hobby. The people watching and dining opportunities alone are worth the trip. Just make sure to bring your foul weather gear, because rain is as much of a time-honored tradition as is the funnel cake on the midway.