UNION, Ky. -- Mike and Kathy Scott have waited all year for this.
Mike, a retired contractor, is stepping away from finishing the basement in their new house in Union, and Kathy, a preschool teacher, has taken a week off from work. From Aug. 4-7, the pair will make their 10th visit to the 127 Yard Sale, also known as the World's Longest.
They'll start out in Union and head south, where they'll go 40 miles searching for odds and ends.
"We look for great bargains, materials to finish our basement, interesting items," Kathy said. "We go for the excitement, meeting and talking with new people and spending time together."
The pair will be married 44 years in October, and for nearly a quarter of those years they've celebrated early August by traveling down U.S. 127, searching for rusty gold like television's American Pickers.
Thousands of others will do the same.
Most of the time, enthusiasts say, the searching is more fun than the finding. It creates a bond between strangers, and provides opportunities for family members to pass down generational knowledge.
They say it's more than just a yard sale. They say it's a walk through history.
Back to the back roads
It all started in 1987 as the brainchild of Mike Walker, an attorney and then-Executive of Fentress County, Tennessee, located about 90 miles northwest of Knoxville.
The city of Jamestown, Tennessee, sits on the intersection of U.S. 127 and Tennessee 52. It was being bypassed in the 1980s. Motorists were taking interstates 40 and 75 to get to their destinations, so no one saw Jamestown's horseback riding opportunities or its eateries.
Walker wanted to bring back guests. After starting as coordinated yard sales in Tennessee and Kentucky along U.S. 127, the years passed and more towns opted in, lured by the possibility of bringing tourists back to their Main Streets.
Now, the yard sale stretches about 690 miles, from just north of Addison, Michigan, all the way to Gadsen, Alabama. Most sales begin at 8 a.m. and end after dark.
"Obviously, it's difficult to put a number on how much money is made," said Misty Stephens, Fentress County Tourism and Membership Director. "The items are re-sold, so there's no tax, but it's obvious the hotels, gas stations and small businesses along the route make an impact for those areas."
A good, quality outing
Cheyenne Thurman caught the yard sale bug later in life, while her husband Jonathan had attended flea markets with his family since he was a kid.
Now, the Williamstown, Kentucky, couple is ready for their fifth 127 Yard Sale. Since their first trip, Cheyenne quit her job as a teacher and the pair opened their own store in Crittenden -- Hillbillies Thrift Shop and Flea Market.
The store specializes in everything from antiques to brand new toys. So this weekend, the Thurmans will split up to visit sites along 127 from Tennessee to Ohio. For the first time, they’ll be looking for items for their business.
Last year they were in Alabama when they found a 19th century hand ice crusher. They spent $20. Value of the heavy metal crusher? $650.
"It's the fun of it,” Cheyenne said. “You never know who you're going to meet or what you're going to find."
Like a silver pitcher bought for three dollars that later appraised for $1,200.
Bethanie Begley, of Sparta, Kentucky, will sell near the intersection of Ky. 338 and 127 in Beaver Lick, Kentucky. She once spent a quarter on a bag of jewelry and found a gem worth $180.
"They say if you can't find what you're looking for at the 127 then you didn't look hard enough," she said.
Troy Evans, of Dry Ridge, once found an old fly-fishing set that reminded him of his grandfather, the person who taught him the importance of storytelling and history. Now, Evans brings his children to continue to pass the lessons down. They purchased that fly-fishing set for $15. Value? $100.
"The yard sale is a walk through history," said Evans, 55. "You can bring the family, and have a good, quality outing."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The World’s Longest Yard Sale, Aug. 4-7, from 8 a.m. to evening.
After talking with shoppers and sellers, there seem to be a few tips to tackle this monstrous yard sale:
- Visit 127YardSale.com to help plan your route -- lots of good information and advice there -- with tips on lodging, restaurants and other entertainment.
- Look for dense populations of sellers. Some of these can be found in Covington’s MainStrasse area, Sparta, by the racetrack, or Greenville, Ohio. Drive your car from one dense location to the next.
- Watch the weather -- and bring water to stay hydrated (though you will be able to find food and drink along the way).
- If an object doesn’t catch your eye instantly, it’s probably not something you want.
- That said, if you see something you want -- get it. If you wait and come back, it could be gone.
- Negotiate the price. Don’t be embarrassed -- it’s part of the fun for the vendors.
- Remember: You can’t buy everything. You only have so much room in your house.
- Of course, bring cash.