The Wilson County Exposition Center became a doorway to the 1800s over the weekend as it hosted the fifth annual Heart of Tennessee Antique Show.

Antique dealers representing 18 states and Canada filled the showroom with cabinets, figurines, signs and more. Customers from as many states followed in search of treasures big and small.

“This year we’ve had a great reception from customers,” event promoter Katherine Bovard said. “We’ve been growing each year as people learn about the show and see that Lebanon is a great place to be. We’re mainly early Americana, which sets the show apart from ones that include more modern pieces.”

Bovard said the event is scheduled the same week as several Nashville-area antique shows to encourage more travelers to come through and spend time in the city, like the Mayoras family from Gallatin.

“We’ve been coming here since it started,” Joni Mayoras said. “This kind of a show has so many rare and unused pieces, not your run of the mill antiques. I can’t tell you how many things we’ve bought here over the years, but one that stands out is a big drum from the 1800s with copper drumsticks.”

The element of mystery is a draw for customers, and Bill Subjack of the Virginia-based Neverbird Antiques recalled an unlikely find one of them made on Friday.

“What interests people in New Hampshire isn’t always what interests people in Tennessee, so you have to keep your eyes open all year,” he said. “One thing we brought out this weekend was a Davidson County sampler with an unusual last name — Joslin. A direct descendent shows up, and she damn near had a stroke when she saw it was her last name.”

After checking her family tree, the customer confirmed the relation and was able to bring home that piece of family history.

“We picked that up all the way in California,” Subjack said. “It’s a good feeling when something goes back to a family from years and miles away. That’s one of my favorite things about this business.”

Others spent the weekend finding rare and vintage furniture pieces, and dealers could often be spotted helping wheel them out to parked cars.

Joe Cardetti, owner of Kracker Barrell Antiques in Missouri, decided to keep his collection focused on “smalls” that can fit in a shopping bag.

“This is my third year attending this show,” he said. “I particularly like it here in Lebanon because there’s no traffic and you can just get right back to the hotel, plus the people in Tennessee are always friendly.”

Cardetti built his collection of country primitives piece by piece, largely from searching Pennsylvania and New England. He enjoys sharing the stories behind each one with customers.

“To me, every piece you find is interesting,” he said. “At a show like this, if you ask questions you can gain a tremendous amount of knowledge. This is my 53rd year of having a shop and I still learn something new every day.”

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