Drive-in movie theaters all across the country have been making a comeback ever since the closure of public spaces (including movie theaters) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The San Luis Obispo community is lucky to have Sunset Drive-In Movie Theater where different films are played each week.
However, what many fans of the drive-in theater may not know is that the space is not used exclusively for movie showings. On Sunday mornings the drive-in transforms from a movie-viewing area to a giant flea market.
For those who have been missing attending garage sales on the weekend, this is a great alternative to go scrounge around and find some hidden treasures. Almost every parking spot in the lot is occupied with vendors looking to sell various items. There are rows of booths, all stocked with anything from fresh produce to jewelry and clothing to plants and yard work tools.
Throughout the pandemic, many malls and shopping centers have either been closed or very low in inventory. Many families have lost sources of income as the country has entered a recession, leaving thrift stores and garage sales to be a budget friendly alternative.
An event such as the swap meet, is easier to attend than to drive all over town going to local thrift stores or garage sales. The merchandise is also much more diverse and profits go directly to the sellers.
The swap meet is also in close proximity to one of San Luis Obispo’s main homeless shelters: 40 Prado Homeless Services Center. The swap meet is a resource for community members who may be without work or housing and who, as a result, may need cheap clothes, tools or other items.
With the closure of downtown San Luis Obispo’s Thursday evening farmer’s market, there is a huge financial burden put on the regular produce vendors. The swap meet has been a way for many to offset this loss, and continue to sell the products their income depends on. This also goes for craftspeople or artists who may not be getting exposure through events they would normally booth at.
The swap meet is a great alternative to hosting garage sales too. Many people used the early months of quarantine and closures of offices and schools to tidy up around their homes.
There was extra time for those projects that just always seemed to get pushed to the next weekend to get completed. With many donation centers closed, it can be hard to find a home for items that are finally ready to exit your living space.
For many who may want to host a large sale at home, the thought of having strangers flock to their home during the pandemic was worrisome. This is especially true for people who have done their best to keep the pod of people they have been seeing small.
It is also hard for those who live in apartments or high-density housing to host a yard sale as they may lack the outdoor space necessary. Sellers do not need to advertise – whether through newspaper ads or by posting signs around their neighborhood – for the swap meet either, as Sunset Drive-In does all of the advertorial work.
Anyone is eligible to bring a carload (or a few) to the swap meet. There are no specific permits that may be hard and costly for some to obtain. For a seller, parking spots and entrance fees are only $25 and gates open at 5 am on Sunday mornings, giving sellers time to set up before the general admissions open at 6 am.
For those attending, the fee is a dollar per person and there is a snack booth as well as food vendors inside.
The event follows all CDC and state mandated health guidelines: requiring the practice of social distancing for those attending as well as for vendors and requiring all attendees to wear masks or face shields.