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March 27, 2011

Auto swap meet continues to grow in Duncan

DUNCAN — For five years, Zack Thornton has hosted an auto swap meet at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center, and each year, for five years, that swap meet has grown exponentially.

“We probably grow 50 to 100 booths larger each year,” Thornton said. “This year we had between 80 and 90 more, so it’s growth, but you always wanna see more.”

Despite Thornton’s high goals, auto enthusiasts and vendors agree that the Stephens County auto swap meet is one of the better ones they get to attend.

Russ Root of Oklahoma City said he has been a friend of Thornton’s for several years and has come to the swap meet before.

“He’s really got a good setup here,” Root said. “There’s a good variety, a lot of different things to see and really the facilities are what set this place off from the others.

“The indoor facilities he has to use are huge for the guys who come to sell stuff, I mean that’s just major. It doesn’t even matter with this one if the weather’s bad or not, people can still come because a lot of it is indoors.”

One of the vendors utilizing the indoor facilities was Kevin Hammick of Duncan. Hammick, a firefighter by trade, also owns an upholstery and car shop outside of town. He said throughout the year, he will accumulate cars and many parts associated with them at his shop. Come swap meet time, he stakes out his claim and tries to sell what he can.

“I tried working outside those first couple years, but the weather really didn’t cooperate, so I asked to be moved inside,” Hammick said. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Hammick said he usually does pretty well at the swap meet and will even spend time roaming around the other vending spots.

“It’s a hobby of mine, I like to fix up cars, work on cars,” Hammick said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

Root said aside from the facilities, one of the biggest items at the Stephens County auto swap meet is the amount of “barn cleaners” that come.

“All these guys, probably within 100 mile radius will clean out their barns or their garages and bring all those little things here to sell,” Root said. “You go the big shows in like Dallas or Austin, they have these huge vendors selling new parts and full cars, and that’s fine, but these guys that bring all the stuff from their barns and garages do real well. It’s something you don’t see offered at the bigger swap meets usually.”

The swap meet didn’t only feature car items though. Wes Rightmire, a.k.a. “The Bicycle Man” makes an appearance every year at the swap meet. Rightmire offers classic bicycles, bicycle parts and anything to go along.

“Classic cars and classic bicycles just go together,” Rightmire said. “A lot of these guys will have the classic cars, but not have the bikes to go with the cars.

“These were one of the biggest forms of transportation back in the 40s, 50s and 60s, so they’re just as much a part of this as the cars are.”

Rightmire, who owns a bike shop outside of Duncan said he goes to swap meets all over the country, including his biggest venture to Ann Arbor Mich.

“That’s probably the biggest one I do, but this is getting to be a big one too,” Rightmire said. “It’s probably bigger than the one in Chickasha now, and getting better.”

Thornton said everything he does couldn’t be possible without the help he receives from his friends, the people at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center and all the vendors that come.

“Without them obviously, this wouldn’t be possible, and they show great support for me and this swap meet,” Thornton said. “I got started doing this by going to the swap meets with my dad and grandpa, and I guess it just gets in your blood and I really enjoy it.

“I just hope that this swap meet provides what people want and need and everyone has as good of a time as I do.”

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