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Omaha Magazine

Peace, Love, & Junk: Junkstock’s National Success

Mar 21, 2024 01:47PM ● By Holly McAtee
Sara Alexander, founder of Junkstock omaha! b2b april may 2024

Sara Alexander, founder of Junkstock.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Often when you talk to successful entrepreneurs, they tell you that their business idea developed out of finding something missing in their market. That was the case for Sara Alexander, founder of Junkstock. Alexander noticed the “junking” community in the Midwest was growing, but there weren’t any local events to bring people together.

It began with an idea of repurposed relics, great music, and food—or as Alexander describes it, “Woodstock with Junk,” hence the name “Junkstock.” The result is an experience that takes attendees to another universe full of childhood whimsy, handmade goods, and inspiration to make homes unique.

Alexander’s love of repurposing old junk sparked when she was remodeling a foreclosure with her husband and kept finding cool stuff at thrift stores. She took some of her stuff to the Junk Jubilee in Des Moines where she met fellow junkers and talented artisans.

After the Jubilee, she rented a chicken coop at an old dairy farm in West Omaha for $100 a month and held monthly sales. Alexander has fond memories of working on her junk creations on the farm with her two children by her side. They helped her paint the tires forming the peace sign that now adorns Junkstock’s barn.

In 2012, Alexander opened a store in Papillion called The Junque Factory, where she sold her unique repurposed goods. One day, Danelle Schlegelmilch came into the shop and told Alexander how much she loved junk. Schlegelmilch had a public relations background and offered to help with the first Junkstock.

The duo launched the inaugural event with 29 vendors in June 2012. Alexander reflected that Junkstock is a place for kindred souls to come together, and she is happy to be part of that. “I love bringing people together,” she said. “When people come to Junkstock, they have fun, and it takes them to a different place.” Schlegelmilch added that the event is “a vintage festival that meets the most epic flea market on steroids. It has a lot of the same peace and love of Woodstock, but also has great things to see and buy.”

As Junkstock grew, the duo needed a larger space. In 2016, Alexander and her husband bought a 135-acre farm in Waterloo where the family resides and holds Junkstock. Living on the farm gives them more time to put together the festivals and have even bigger themes along with permanent buildings and areas that can be used and redecorated year after year.

In the early days, they all did various jobs. Schlegelmilch took out the trash, while Alexander collected tickets. Their family and friends all pitched in to pull off successful events. Junkstock is still a family affair; the famous apple cinnamon donuts were the brainchild of Alexander’s husband, and their kids work the booth.

Junkstock has grown to an event with around 250 vendors and 12 live bands. It attracts an estimated 30,000 visitors annually. National media outlets have noticed; the biannual event has been named a top-rated festival by USA Today, Midwest Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and Country Living. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and the American Pickers have even attended the festival.

Having eccentric themes each year has contributed to the event’s success. For 2024, visitors can expect a hippie “Alice and Wonderland” theme. “Attendees will tumble down the rabbit hole in the whimsical wonderland that always awaits you at Junkstock,” Alexander said.

The founder believes that to be successful at something, one must be passionate about it. “I was always a person who did things 120%. The farm was such a great place to create. Looking back, I feel like I was put on this path with all the people that I met. I wasn’t driven by money. I was driven by the excitement of bringing people together. It didn’t feel like work—it felt like fun,” she said.

Junkstock 2024 takes place May 3-5,  May 10-12, September 27-29, and October 4-6. For more information visit Junkstock.com

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2024 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe. 

Sara Alexander, founder of Junkstock.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

 

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