The ancient Roman Circus Maximus is far distant on the map and on the calendar, but Mesa has its own circus of bargains: the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet.
The Circus Maximus of old Rome was a giant oval track 1,800 feet long and 350 feet wide which provided chariot races and mass entertainment. A hoard of 150,000 spectators (a crowd eight times larger than the Suns’ can seat at the US Airways Center) cheered for their favorites while vendors hawked their wares. On YouTube you can watch Charlton Heston race his chariot in the movie “Ben Hur.”
Although there are no charioteers, the Mesa Market is likewise an enormous venue for entertainment, serious shopping and recreational buying. There are 22 acres of covered breezeways, 500 merchants, 1,600 booths and a total length of one-and-a-half miles. The four open aisles are each 20 feet wide (the width of a Roman road) and stretch the length of the swap meet. The Mesa Market is completely wheelchair accessible, but racing your personnel chariot might get you some thumbs down.
The term “swap meet” is a misnomer as practically everything sold is brand new. However, there is a program for people to come and sell their garage-sale stuff. For selling your used items, you are allowed to rent two spots a year without a business license. Such a deal.
Overhead in the summer, you can find misters — no, not eligible men in golf shorts, but, rather, those things that spray water to cool the breeze. Take advantage of the reduced crowds in the summer as in the winter the snowbirds swarm the Market Place from November to April.
Clean, safe, and easily accessible from all sides of the parking lot, the market has two centurions from the Mesa Police Department standing watch at all times to protect us plebeian consumers.
Snack bars beckon you in every row — bring cash for food — and bathrooms are worthy of modern times. The food court serves hot and cold sandwiches, Italian food and toppers of ice cream. Yes, there’s cold beer, too. Come early and enjoy breakfast from opening time until 10:30 a.m. The breakfast costs only three sesterces — uh, dollars. You get ova, crustum, beta and Folger’s. (I mean eggs, toast, hash browns and coffee.) Or choose other variations of breakfast food.
Buy yourself some sandals worthy of a legionnaire — shoes that look like they could withstand a loaded Roman march around the Mediterranean. (A loaded march is moving rapidly over miles-long distances carrying weights.) Are the Mesa sandals made of tire rubber? Who knows. Could you get 60,000 miles out of them?
You can find something for everyone: shoes, golf gear, decor, jewelry, games, silk plants and clothes. Also find tools, fabrics, kitchenware, pet supplies, toys and clothes. Did I mention clothes? Also, gizmos, whangdoodles and thingamajiggies. At the General store booth, I bought some nifty little Rada kitchen knives. If you want something bigger, there are suitcases, large rugs, lawn furniture, golf carts and the all-important outdoor spa for your villa. Sorry, no catapults, battering rams or gladius swords are allowed.
There’s more. The Mesa Market is, in its own right, a “small business incubator” where you can try out a new business for minimal cost. You can rent a spot for $30 a day with an extra $8 if you want electricity. If you want a longer time, pay $300 up front for the next four weeks. Selling weapons or fireworks is forbidden, but you can sell togas, laurel wreaths and the rank fish sauce the Romans slathered on everything.
No charge for entrance, parking and entertainment which occurs from 9 to 3 at the food court in the center of the market. Parking for the handicapped is on the north end and near each entrance.
So, march in military quick time (that’s two steps a second) over to the Mesa Market to get some exercise, entertain yourself and save some money. If you are the drag-along partner and don’t want to shop, just sit down and imagine that you are seated in the real Circus Maximus while you people watch and enjoy an icy drink of Cocus Colus. And as the Romans say, “Caveat emptor, amici.”