Antique Show returns in traditional form

"Where and whenThe Langley Antique Show and Sale is held in the historic Pole Building at the Island County Fairgrounds, Saturday, May 27, from 10 a.m-6 p.m., and Sunday, May 28, from 10-4. Twenty dealers will offer cottage and country furniture, jewelry, linens, glassware, toys, china, primitives, garden furnishings and more. Refreshments will also be provided.Parking is free. Admission is $2.50 with a portion of the proceeds going to local charities. Antiques have always been a part of Virginia LaRue's life. There were antiques in her home when she was growing up; when she was a young mother she began a tradition of giving her daughters something old and something new on birthdays and Christmas.But it wasn't until she and her husband Travers LaRue arrived in Langley in 1972 that her passion for antiques became a business as well.We opened a tobacco shop on First Street and had it until 1986, Virginia LaRue recalled. We had some antiques there, and people always loved them. Shortly afterward, LaRue opened her own shop a few doors down and began collecting the antiques that were her delight and passion. Over the years since then, the store called Virginia's Antiques has become filled with what seems a limitless array of items that range from old tobacco pipes, early sheet music and period jewelry to antique lamps and furniture, Oriental pieces, glassware and collectible china. I started at a few garage sales and estate sales, she said. Now people bring things in, or call me about an estate or a collection. It wasn't long before LaRue's enthusiasm for her work translated into what has become a South Whidbey tradition for almost 25 years: the Langley Antique Show and Sale.I started putting on the shows, and have probably done 23 or 24 of them, LaRue said. There was a break for two or three years, she said, after her husband died in 1983. But then we started up again. Juanita Clyde and I did them three times a year -- on Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving -- for eight years. We were always working on antique shows! LaRue said. Juanita got the people for the show and I did the advertising, she said. One flyer for a Thanksgiving show called it the Shine on Harvest Langley Barn Sale and promised good food, good grog, genuine hospitality and a charming atmosphere. Of course since the Pole Building has no heat, those fall shows could get a bit nippy. We'd tell the dealers, 'Wear your mittens, long underwear and boots,' LaRue said. Many of them brought little space heaters.If we didn't have one and got cold, we'd move over to the next booth to share the warmth, LaRue said.After Juanita Clyde became ill and died, LaRue thought she would stop producing the shows, she said, but her friend and fellow antique dealer Marian Lanihan convinced her she should continue the tradition.I told her I'd help anyway I could -- I wouldn't put them on myself, but I'd help! Lanihan said.The two did the shows together from 1995 to the present, and have stories and memories that would fill a book.There was the time a dealer coming for the show took the wrong ferry, and landed on the peninsula, LaRue remembered. She got here just after it ended! When she and Juanita Clyde were running the show, Linda and Leonard Good brought their apple press and made fresh cider. Early on, there were freshly baked pies and other items for sale. LaRue remembers a large dog who slept in a drawer. After the first few shows with free admission, they decided to charge $1, with some of the proceeds going to local charities.We'd have 1,200 people come to the show, LaRue said. We'd be able to donate $800 or $900 to the Cemetery Board or the Fire Department -- whoever happened to need it that year. A favorite dealer was Gene Shobingen, a former Marine who owned Red Rocker Antiques.He said if he could have three booths he would stay in the building and be the night guard, LaRue said. He set up such a nice corner, Lanihan added. And when he left, the floor of the Pole Building was cleaner than it was when we moved in.LaRue's daughters Denise Whitmore (who owns The Cottage where the cigar shop once was) and LaRue of Big Sister both were part of the events. ;And there are regulars who participate in almost every show: Islanders Joan Handy, Betsy Kirsch, Joni Reed, Diane Lochaby. Dealers also come from Everett, Oregon, the peninsula, Anacortes, Seattle.There are always 20, Lanihan said. Twenty fills that room beautifully.In the antique business for 30 years, Lanihan knew the dealers and frequented shows all over. The two produced the Langley Antique Show until last year. They were very happy times, LaRue said. I don't remember ever having trouble with anyone.But time was catching up with LaRue, she decided. I thought, I've had it. I'm going to be 80 and I can't do it any more.Again, no one wanted to see the shows end. One of the enthusiasts was Janet McNae, who took on the responsibility. McNae has found the dealers, organized the publicity and planned this year's show with the help of LaRue and Lanihan, who on Wednesday helped her with details like marking the floor for the booths and hanging the sign.The show will have a slightly different look: It will incorporate garden art, and there will be both new and old items from areas like Seattle. Both LaRue and Lanihan will of course have their own booths.I have three-and-a-half pages of items I'll be showing, LaRue said. They'll include jewelry, Oriental items, a lot of china.Lanihan's specialty is primitives and Victorian toys, and she will also have some of her husband's Appalachian-style furniture. People are decorating now with a blend of new and old, both Lanihan and LaRue agree. A few years ago it was waffle irons, old iron muffin pans that sold well, LaRue said. Now we can hardly give them away. People are interested in finer things.Now that she has seen the Langley Antique Show leave her purview, what will LaRue do with her newfound leisure time? I'm going to Paris with Denise, she said. It's one of the many places she wants to travel. She already went to Alaska for the Iditarod this year with friend Mo Black. We had a grand time.She is also as dedicated to her shop as always. I am so excited about everything, she said. I'll be dead tired at the end of the day, and then get a call from someone who'll say, 'I have something I have to show you; can you come over?' And of course I'm there right away. "

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