The History of the Canton Flea Market


Canton’s fall Flea Market is widely considered the event that officially kicks off the holiday season in the metro and serves as one of the county’s brightest treasures for family and friends to experience. 

Set on Canton's historic turn-of-the-century downtown square, the Flea Market draws around 1,000 craftsmen and artisans and up to 40,000 shoppers and other visitors from across the country on the second Thursday of May and October each year. 

The market first began in 1965 after the Canton Chamber of Commerce met and discussed ways to improve the town. At this meeting, someone suggested a “market of some kind” to put a spotlight on the courthouse and historic town square. 

At the time, Mrs. Velma Taylor and two other women, Mrs. Homer Casteel and Miss Mary Ethel Cole, formed the Canton Art Association, and after a lot of planning and hard work, the first Canton Flea Market came to be on May 20, 1965.  

Local artists first displayed their works by hanging them on the wrought iron fence surrounding the historic county courthouse. 

Taylor used her newspaper resources to get the word out to local artists, women’s clubs, schools and more. According to The Madison County Herald, the first year only a “handful of locals,” showed up for the event. That didn’t stop Taylor and the others, though. 

By the time the event celebrated its 10th year, the Flea Market was buzzing and Canton began to experience the traffic jams associated with Market Day. 

In the mid-90s, organizers expanded the Flea Market, allowing for vendors along part of Peace Street and Fulton Street. 

JoAnn Gordon, executive director of the Canton Convention and Visitors Bureau and Film Office, said new customers at the market can experience the beautiful and historic Canton community and Square surrounded by the architectural integrity of the 1800s and beyond. 

“The market becomes an open-air lifestyle and generations come together,” Gordon said. “It’s like having an Etsy shop right in front of you, and it’s hands-on. We always say to wear comfortable shoes, dress for the day, have a group meeting place in mind, and always have your phone near you. It’s not just a tradition for Canton, it’s a showcase of one of Mississippi’s treasures. You are on one of the preserved historic squares in Mississippi and we love to introduce that to new audiences. It’s all about artisans, crafts, and architectural beauty in a classy, small town main street.”

Gordon says the October Flea Market is what a lot consider to be the event that kicks off the holiday season in Mississippi. 

“The state fair is important, but the festivals are what make Mississippi shine,” Gordon said. “We always felt that because of the age of the market and the long-term event, it has been for the state. It really kicks things off, and the market itself retains the integrity of an arts and crafts show. The newness just comes with new vendors.”

The October Flea Market this year begins at 8 a.m. on Oct. 12 and runs through 5 p.m. 

Canton Flea Market Coordinator Stacy Hodges said a lot of the same vendors will be present this year selling an array of arts and crafts, childrens’ clothing, metalwork, Thanksgiving items, and Christmas items such as ornaments, trees, signs, and more, including new items such as freeze-dried candy, handmade pottery, and international coffee grains. 

“We’ve had a lot of applications come in,” she said. “It’ll be a great flea market.”

For more information about the Canton Flea Market, contact Canton Tourism at (601) 859-1307.