Sunday, August 2, 2020

You want it--they've got it

If you’ve been bitten by the yard sale bug, always on the lookout for a bargain, the World’s Longest YardSale is positively paradise.

Sightseers and shoppers, sellers and schleppers—all mingle in an immense mass of goods salvaged from attics, barns, and back porches. Snaking for 600 miles through six states, this yard sale is junkster’s nirvana.

And it’s happening in August.

Starting in Gadsden, Alabama, on top of Lookout Mountain, the 127 Yard Sale is, in reality, an incredible marketing strategy.  Organized in 1987 by local chambers of commerce, this extended yard sale was an attempt to bring people off the interstate system onto the less traveled mountain roads. Rural communities embraced the concept, and it grew steadily in popularity. Through Alabama, into Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan, the train of tables extends along the Hwy. 127 corridor (hence the name), offering a leisurely tour of rural America in addition to bargain hunting.

Campers to computers.  Purses to puppies.  Unused windows, lawn mower parts, a smattering of “antiques” and honest-to-goodness craft items.  Everything imaginable, including the kitchen sink, is strewn along the roadside in this sale.  People from all over the country plan vacations encompassing this haggling heaven, whether they are sellers or buyers.

But my husband and I happened upon this event by accident.  Gadsden was an overnight stop on our road trip from Texas to the Smoky Mountains.

“Did you come for the yard sale?” asked the manager of our motel when we checked in.  Although we were clueless, other guests knew just which way to head out in the morning.

Stopping to ask directions to Nocalula State Park in Gadsden—we wanted to see the fabled Indian falls there—provided the first clue about what we would encounter.  The service station clerk warned us about crowds of sellers and shoppers crammed into the park (the sale’s starting point), yet the mass was still navigable, and the park provided a welcome refuge from traveling in the car. 

Still unaware of the event’s magnitude, we headed for Lookout Mountain Parkway, a recommended scenic drive according to our guidebook.

What unfolded along this road, also known in the Gadsden area as Tabor Road, became more fascinating with each passing mile.  Actually, the miles merely crept along in a swarm of people, autos, and goods.  Roadsides teemed with tables, tents, and tourists.  Cars lurched as drivers scoped out their next stop. 
Toys, hubcaps, dishes, or baby cribs.  Vintage jewelry, farm-fresh vegetables, and fishing lures.  It’s all there for the haggling. Nobody missed an opportunity to make a buck or find a bargain.
Shoppers can jump into the longest yard sale at either end or somewhere in the middle.  This year the sale is scheduled for August 4-7, time enough to cover the whole route, if you have a mission, by selectively choosing stops.

People all along the route embrace this marketing ploy, whether they live in towns or in rural areas connected only by ribbons of two-lane road. Wares are spread on tables, blankets, or bare ground and faithfully tended in village parking lots, private front yards, and open fields.

As miles of hilly farmland planted in corn and beans rolled by, yard sales thinned but never disappeared for long.  “Got Milk—and Butter, Fresh Churned,” proclaimed one farm house sign.  Boiled peanuts, watermelon, lemonade, and hot dogs were offered to tempt tourists off the road and to keep their stamina strong for the next round of deal making.

Thousands of vendors participate, and locals often rent cabins and campsites to those who follow the craft fair circuit.  Some homeowners also rent space in their yards for sellers to set up shop.   Sellers come in old school buses, campers, or trucks loaded with new, or almost new, and often obviously used goods hoping to catch the fancy of passing motorists. Roadsides become outdoor malls swarming with super shoppers.

Following the trail takes the traveler through beautiful mountain scenery, forests, and rolling hills, with several state parks and recreation areas along the way for moments of relaxation.  It was definitely a scenic route with enormous appeal for a variety of reasons. 

Success of this free event relies on coordination from each community, and many towns plan special activities to take advantage of the influx of tourists. Hotels and restaurants along the way fill with the curious and the committed, a sign that the strategy to entice people into the mountain communities is working.  
It’s an incredible experience, a little tacky and wacky, but truly fun for those who love to shop until they drop—and take home plenty of goods as proof.
           
Find printable or interactive route map at www.127yardsale.com/route-map
More information at www.127sale.com

Photos from free sources

No comments: