Traders camp out under the stars for the Ballarat Swap Meet

WHEELING and dealing means getting up early.

Thousands of “swappers” prepared to camp overnight next to the Ballarat Airport as site holders set up for this weekend’s Ballarat Swap Meet.

From as far away as New Zealand, and from virtually every state and territory, they geared up for the biggest swap meet in the southern hemisphere.

As the sun set, they hunkered down in the back of station wagons and 4x4s, on the trays of utes, in caravans and tents, and even in swags under the stars (or clouds, as the case may be), to be ready for today’s early rush.

The paddock resembled a tent city with car parts, accessories, and even whole vehicles in place for when the buyers arrive today.

It was hardly the Hilton as far as accommodation was concerned, but that didn’t matter for the veteran swappers who consider heading to the swap meet something of an annual pilgrimage.

Andrejs Jaunzemis, better known as AJ, came across from Ferntree Gully as he does every year. He admits, at 61 years of age, he probably should know better.

“I sleep on the ground. I put a tarp over the top. I’ll be fine,” AJ said. “My missus won’t get near it now. She came once and it cured her of ever coming back.

“It’s not very comfortable and last year I slept with a great big wolf spider. I could feel it tickling me during the night and woke up to find it.”

AJ owns the second Kenworth truck imported into Australia and hoped to buy Kenworth parts as well as sell his wares.

Parked next door were Peter Robinson and his son Cameron. It was Cameron’s first time at the meet and he was looking forward (not really) to sleeping in the tray of a Falcon Ute next to Dad. 

By comparison, Damian Rowan from Kew was in comparative luxury, with a roof over his head in the back of a HZ Holden panel van.

Mr Rowan, who sells Holden EH S4 supplies, said it was comfortable enough.

“It’s a work van, not a sin bin, and it’s all right when I’m asleep,” he said. “I’ll get up first thing in the morning, ready for some wheeling and dealing.”

The Ballarat Swap Meet opens for buyers at 7am today, Saturday and Sunday.

gavin.mcgrath@fairfaxmedia.com.au 

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