“Longest Yard Sale” Sets Up on US 127

Rural America provides the backdrop for the 23rd annual 127 Corridor Sale, where farmers and others offer big bargains from Michigan to Alabama.

by Dani Yokhna
127 Corridor Sale
Courtesy Hollen Freeman
In Gadsen, Ala., Hollen Freeman and her family attract shoppers at the 127 Corridor Sale by renting an old barn to display their sale items.

Get ready. Get set. Go find a barnyard bargain. This weekend, Aug. 4 to 7, 2011, the famous 127 Corridor Sale will bring together shoppers from across the country and around the world for a weekend of rural roadside deals.

This year marks the 23rd year of what has become known as the world’s longest yard sale. Now stretching from Hudson, Mich., to Gadsden, Ala., the sale extends 675 miles through America’s rural counties and is nearly twice the size of the original sale.

Mark Walker, former county executive of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, Tenn., teamed together with other county officials in 1987 to launch the 127 Corridor Sale as a way to highlight the beauty and usefulness of America’s back roads. According to the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce, more than 300 attractions stretch along the corridor, including crafts people, horse farms, fishing, hiking and railroads.

As the sale has garnered a following over the years, farms along the corridor have discovered ways to take part in the action; some sell wares, like antiques and collectibles, while others rent out pieces of their land along the road to other vendors.

Having taken part in the sale since they bought their land in 2005, the owners of Boulder Belt Eco Farm in Eaton, Ohio, do both. This year, the CSA farm, which has committed to growing local and sustainable food for its area, is selling antiques, household goods and fresh produce, as well as commemorative T-shirts and totes, says owner Lucy Goodman, who runs the farm with her husband, Eugene. They also offered a 10- by 20-foot vendor space for $20 per day.

Taking part in the event has boosted the number of visitors to the farm.

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“The first year we had around 10,000 people stop by during the four-day event,” Goodman says. “Last year, it was over 30,000.”

Down at the southern tip of the sale in Gadsden, Ala., Holly Freeman and her parents take a smaller approach and rent a barn for the sale.

“My dad fixes up the inside of the barn so people can walk in and see what tools and things he has all around,” she says. “I just love seeing people walk by and find just the right things that they have been looking for.”

If you don’t have your spot along the 127 Corridor, it’s not too late to take part this year or plan for next year. Use these tips from Goodman, Freeman and the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce to have a successful farm sale:

1. Pick a prime location.
Vendors clustered together with other rural farmers and sellers are more likely to attract business than those set up alone. Or take a cue from Freeman, and set up in a unique space in a high-traffic area.

“The barn is on a semi-busy street with houses all around it, so when anyone says ‘the red barn on Tabor Road, it’s pretty easy to know where it is,” she says. “People think it’s cool to come in and look around because it’s an old barn.”

If you need help finding the perfect location for your table, visit the 127 Corridor Sale website’s vendor page for a list of contacts that can help you find a space.

2. Play by the rules.
Always check ahead of time with the local government where you want to sell for any necessary permits or licenses. A good place to start looking for this information is on the 127 Corridor Sale website, which lists information about health and sales-tax regulations.

3. Stick to what sells.
With 675 miles of sales to pick through, shoppers won’t just buy any old junk you set out on the table. Antiques and oddities work best, according to the 127 Corridor Sale website, and items like used clothing should be avoided because they’re easily passed over.

Goodman has also found produce doesn’t sell well: “I have found melons and corn to be decent sellers, but our sales are nowhere near what they would be at a farmers’ market, as these folks are usually traveling long distances (most are trying to do the entire route or most of it) so they are not looking for food.”

4. Start online.
Days before the sale officially begins, shoppers and sellers congregate on the 127 Corridor Sale’s Facebook page to swap sale secrets and gear up for the big event. You can use the Facebook page to team up with other vendors in your area, promo your best goods or get ideas for marketing platforms. 

5. Be a good neighbor.
The point of the 127 Corridor Sale is to have fun and celebrate the beauty of rural America. Encourage people to learn about your farm or the area where you live, and do not charge admission to your booth.

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