One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. For the last 34 years, folks have rummaged through heaps of both in barns, campgrounds, cow pastures, and parking lots from Alabama to Michigan. It’s three days of rambling, bartering, and buying at the World’s Longest Yard Sale.
The famed Highway 127 Yard Sale features more than 2,000 vendors. Antiques dealers and junk sellers (and everything in between!) line the freeway from near Addison, Michigan, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The path winds across Ohio and Kentucky. Next, mostly two-lane roads meander through northwest Georgia to Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama.
But in early August, no one’s looking at the waterfall. Instead, travelers haggle over old Coca-Cola bottles, vintage carnival ride animals, antique furniture, and more.
The yard sale began in 1987. Some say its purpose was luring visitors off larger roadways; others say it was raising money for local kids’ school supplies.
Vendors like Jackie from Lebanon, Tennessee, have sold at the event for years. She displays painted furniture, garden tools, and china outside the Cumberland General Store in Clarkrange, Tennessee. Set-up and tear-down takes several days, striking deals the whole time. “We had a big day Saturday,” she says, referring to the weekend before the sale’s official start.
The Cumberland Store is one of the yard sale’s “major vendor stops,” meaning more than 25 vendors in one place. Cumberland has over 100. The yard sale route map is strewn with such stops, usually around larger cities. But treasure hunters can drive miles before seeing tell-tale tents in the distance. Even during dry spells, folks living along the highway set up tables and hawk their wares.
People wondered whether the sale would happen in this year of the coronavirus pandemic. “The fact that it’s a mostly outdoor event was a large determining factor in going forward. There’s plenty of space for social distancing,” says spokesman Josh Randall, adding, “This event is critical to many people’s livelihood.”
Patricia Gurley piled into a car with friends. They drove 170 miles to Gadsden from Mississippi. Nicole Gerle drove 2,075 miles from California, planning to travel almost the whole route.
Jeff and Kim Stegall meandered from Gadsden to Frankfort, Kentucky, before returning to South Carolina. The Stegalls buy for a vintage shop in Greenville. “We would fill the car up and then find something else. So we’d pull everything out and repack,” says Jeff. They eventually “Tetris-ed” three bookshelves, five lamps, several large porcelain pieces, a huge Asian stand, andirons, and dozens of smaller items and artwork into their station wagon.
Jeff says, “The last time we thought we were completely full, we bought two end tables.” They went on the roof.