Linda and Larry Owen of Ellisville are marking their 50th wedding anniversary in August.
Even earlier, on this Monday, May 28, is the 40th Annual Gypsy Caravan. It will be the 34th consecutive Memorial Day that the Owens' Cross-Eyed Cricket Antiques has sold wares there. Their triple-tent of fine costume and estate jewelry is among the longest running booths.
Linda likes its purpose: a benefit for the St. Louis Symphony.
"When our kids, our two boys, were growing up in Carrollton before we moved to west county, I remember them going to the symphony when they were in grade school. They loved it. It's a wonderful thing to have children experience it at that age," she said.
Their sons were 12 and 10 when they began selling collectibles and antiques at Gypsy Caravan. Larry joined Linda on weekends because they loved antiques. Now he is retired from AT&T (Southwestern Bell) and their older son, Eric, lives in West Virginia. Trevor, their other son, lives in St. Peters and works the show with them. Another change? He provides weather information from his phone.
They missed the first Gypsy Caravan at Northwest Plaza. They settled in at the old Arena, which they called the Checkerdome then — outside, indoors and in the Annex, which later burned down. St. Louis University and a lot across from Union Station punctuated two stints at the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, its present home. Their encased jewelry requires bright light, so they set up on the parking lot, rather than in one of 72 covered spaces.
Larry said weather can be an issue. Lightning at 5 a.m. once delayed setup. He likened the hunters of antiques, crafts and other treasures another year amid rain — the sale goes on if the sun shines or not — to happy ducks in boots and rain gear.
"We started selling a variety of things — a little bit of glassware, small furniture," Linda said. In the era for homespun Americana, they sold country crocks, wooden benches, antique medicine bottles, railroad mementos, butter churns, coffee grinders, mantles and glassware.
"In the '80s jewelry hit very big. Jewelry books came to the market and people started seriously to collect," she said. They settled on it as well, dealing in designer pieces, many glitzy and glamorous, including patriotic victory, fly pins and eagles.
They met in first grade and were high school sweethearts. Linda developed a love of jewelry while working in a department store in Springfield, Mo. This year's inventory includes an Unger Bros. brooch made about 1900.
Not just sellers, they love to hunt treasures from more than 300 vendors from 20 states at Gypsy Caravan, too.
"We collect an awful lot of things for our personal use, from children's sleds to teddy bears," Larry said.
A vendor must have stamina at Gypsy Caravan, unusual for its size in an outdoor location. Committed volunteers create a workable environment that helps the symphony. While customers can fulfill dreams online or stop at an antique mall with multiple options, up to 20,000 shoppers are expected on Monday.
Linda urges them to wear comfy shoes and bring an umbrella to avoid sun or rain.
Treasures found there are show-offs later. A blue bowl would highlight fresh blueberries in chicken salad. This recipe is from the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association (www.chileanfruitonline.com).
Fresh Blueberry Chicken Salad with Almonds
2 whole, cooked chicken breasts, diced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 cup minced green onion
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 tbsp. plain yogurt
1/4 cup sweet mustard
1/4 cup toasted almonds
Sprinkle red onion with rice vinegar. In bowl, toss with chicken. Gently fold in green onion, parsley, cranberries and blueberries to mix.
In small bowl, blend mayonnaise, yogurt and sweet mustard well. Fold into salad. Garnish with almonds.
Makes 6 servings; 322 calories, 13 g (3 g saturated) fat, 66 mg cholesterol, 255 mg sodium, 22 g protein and 3 g dietary fiber each. Double recipe for 8 to 12 servings.