Some people would give anything to spend their vacation days at an endless garage sale. There are numerous opportunities to do just that, with a host of “longest” garage sales linking cities and towns across the U.S. The common denominator? Often a stretch of highway that passes through them.
Peaches to the Beaches Yard Sale is billed as Georgia’s largest yard sale, and the event, which is also known as Explore Highway 341, always takes place the second Friday and Saturday in March.
Paula Anderson, secretary-treasurer of the Telfair County Chamber of Commerce, said, “Peaches to the Beaches Yard Sale is owned by Golden Isles Parkway Association Inc. The 2018 event was the 14th year of the yard sale, which is held along Highway 341 in the following counties: Lamar County, Crawford County, Peach County, Houston County, Pulaski County, Dodge County, Telfair County, Jeff Davis County, Appling County, Wayne County and Glynn County.
“GIPA and the individual counties pay for advertisements through the vendor fees collected at each official site during the Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale. The local chamber/tourism boards keep half of the vendor fees to advertise next year’s Peaches to the Beaches within their community, and GIPA collects half the vendor fees to continue their advertising efforts for the next year’s event. GIPA is comprised of members dedicated to promoting the vast potential for tourism along Highway 341.”
Georgia’s longest yard sale has proven to be a boon not only for the vendors, but also for the cities as a very popular tourism event.
“Who would have thought that a 220-plus mile yard sale could have such a positive impact on the economies of 11 counties?” marveled Anderson.
“Hotels are filled to capacity; many shoppers have to go to surrounding communities to find lodging. It is the busiest time of the year for hotels, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores. This means increased revenue for restaurants, hotels and other retail establishments; more sales tax is collected for Telfair County. In addition, those selling their products of garage sale items have more money in their pockets to spend locally.”
As Anderson mentioned previously, there are 11 counties/cities that this yard sale runs through, so each county/city may handle its community differently in terms of law enforcement during that weekend to make sure travel is safe for everyone.
Have any cities chosen to really get behind this and promote it?
“For the most part either the chambers of commerce or tourism offices are the ones responsible for organizing this event in the different counties so local promotion is done through these groups,” said Anderson. “GIPA does all the broad advertising. But the local governments definitely support it.”
Also, said Anderson, there is a partnership between the counties/cities along this route through GIPA. She noted that if a city/county had an ordinance about yard sales, it was typically waived for this event.
“I recommend that anyone who wishes to begin such an event to educate themselves about all the aspects of it,” noted Anderson. “Learn about miscellaneous cost, advertisements (local and broad) and who will be in charge of the entire event and who will do the same on a local basis for their community. Also, find out where vendors can set up, and what the vendor fees are. Don’t forget travel and parking safety for shoppers.”
Jamestown, Tenn., is in Fentress County where the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce serves as the headquarters for the World’s Longest Yard Sale, or the US 127 Corridor Sale, said Misty Stephens, tourism and membership director.
“We work with our county and city officials to ensure that people are safe during the event. Due to the influx of travelers along Highway 127, we work with local county and city workers to post signage along the highway to help motorists on their travels.
“There is, unfortunately, no way to calculate the actual monies being spent on the World’s Longest Yard Sale, but we see the impact through our lodging facilities, retail stores, gas stations, etc. Our lodging facilities are booked months in advance for the event.”
Some cities do have ordinances in place, said Stephens, and they do ask that vendors and shoppers respect and comply by the rules of the area they are visiting.
Does each city on the route promote the event?
“The event is so large at this point that one could say it promotes itself,” said Stephens. “People from all across the country, even the world, know about the sale.”
What about cities partnering together along the route?
“Since the yard sale is almost 700 miles, cities tend to ‘do their own thing.’ Each city has its own rules and regulations and we ask folks attending the sale to be respectful as to what those cities may be asking or might require,” Stephens said.
She added, “The thing I find to be so neat about this event is that you get to see a large part of rural America. You get to experience parts of the country you’ve never seen before.”
These sales can offer literally anything and everything under the sun. Buy lawn mowers, dishes, fresh garden produce, antiquities, live entertainment, harnesses and tack and so much more. The settings are equally as varied and include homes, parking lots, businesses and farms, all along the designated highway.
These tremendously popular sales are truly reflective of the old saying: “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.”
A plethora of sales can be found on www.thebalance.com/the-longest-yard-sales-in-the-u-s-1389261 website, which lists longest sales throughout the country.
Linda Curtis of Grimes, Iowa, is president of the Iowa Highway 141 Garage Sale and described what she liked most about the sale.
“It’s a lot of fun watching the busloads of people come, and some even come in limousines,” said Curtis. “We just enjoy seeing people dressed up and having a good time.”
Kristopher Martin, associate planner of Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and project coordinator of US 12 Heritage Trail, is already preparing for his state’s longest sale, which will run Aug. 10-12, 2018 and covers 180 miles.
“This is a very large route and passes through eight different counties, several cities, townships and villages,” said Martin.
“On our website (www.us12heritagetrail.org), we list local attractions, restaurants, lodging and so much more. This sale attracts local visitors as well as others who travel from out of state. Some visitors make a weekend of the sale, staying in communities along the trail, which gives people a chance to connect with these places they wouldn’t normally travel through and many will visit these communities at other times throughout the year. In some communities the proceeds from their garage sale go to support charities or local nonprofits.”
According to Martin, his planning commission sends the cities a packet each year with flyers, press releases and posters on information about the sale to cities, visitor centers and chambers of commerce. This gives them time to pass this information to their residents, visitors or members.
Martin said he was not aware of any special rules or ordinances in place for resident garage sale participants.
As for cities along the route partnering together to promote this popular sale-a-bration, they have done so since the early 2000s when they formed a committee to push for the designation of the US 12 Heritage Route. They had members representing communities/cities along the route and would meet regularly. Sadly, the funding for such efforts doesn’t currently exist, said Martin.
“Some communities in the past like New Buffalo, Buchanan, Three Oaks, Coldwater and Saline really had a high rate of participation, to name just a few. They also in the past have planned other events, like New Buffalo’s Ship & Shore Festival that week or Saline’s Summer Festival. Other communities like Three Oaks and Coldwater have lots of open space each year for residents to rent a place for the weekend to have their sale right on US 12. They advertise this information on our website in our rental page and have their own press coverage of the event, too.”
Having community-wide and citywide events like the US 12 Heritage Route Annual Garage Sale benefits the local community and their residents by giving them something to participate in, either by hosting a sale, shopping at a sale or having new customers come by and check out their local businesses.
“It also helps others in neighboring areas to learn about what your city or town has to offer and gives them a fun experience,” Martin concluded. “Who doesn’t love a good deal and sale? This in turn also helps their local businesses and residents, as well. Garage sales also help reduce waste by encouraging resale and reuse.”
And for cities who might find themselves sharing the same stretch of road and thinking about launching their own longest garage sale, Martin said, “I would say to reach out to their local community to get input in participating in a community-wide sale. If so, I would recommend meeting with others along their proposed region and work together to advertise the sale and find a date that works well for everyone.”