690 miles. Six states. The World's Longest Yard Sale is a thing. I'm ashamed to say that, despite being a lifelong garage sale-r/thrifter/vintage hunter, I had never been to the sale. And it starts, or ends, in my state.
The 30th year of the sale, which spans from Michigan to Alabama, was the first year for me. And it did not disappoint. We spent two days driving backroads among the Southernmost points. The sale officially begins in Gadsden, located in the Northeast corner of Alabama, which is where we started. Nate came along for the ride. (Because every 11-year old boy loves to spend the final days of summer break stepping over antiques laid across lawns.)
The first stop proved to be most fortuitous. On the road to Noccalula Falls (the starting point), we found an entire lot of velvet paintings. Friends, it took a good deal of restraint for me not to purchase each and every one. See how much I've grown?
The seller was a man named George Wallace. "Yeah, like the other George Wallace," he said, adding him that his name had gotten him out of one or two speeding tickets.
Did I buy these two lions for a total of $8? Yes, yes I did.
At Noccalula Falls, several hundred vendors were set up. In particular, there were a ton of vintage kitchen treasures. These lard containers!
I was also happy to find so many vintage cookbooks and magazines. Mrs. Geri Player has sold these items all 30 years of the sale.
How great is this ice crusher? It's meant to be mounted on the wall.
Mrs. Player explained that this Purefoy Hotel cookbook, from the long closed Talladega hotel, is among the most collectible cookbooks in the state. She had two versions of it:
From Mrs. Judy Ford I secured a fabulous ashtray. Not for smoking of course, but for holding trinkets and saluting the glories of yesteryear travel:
Starting from Gadsden, the yard sale runs through Lookout Mountain Parkway, switching to Highway 127 further north. For stretches of the sale, like this one just north of Noccaula Falls, traffic slows to a crawl as drivers pass sales as far as the eye can see. To stop or not to stop? You have to choose wisely.
Sure wish I had an extra $250 to buy this "carney boy head." That's what the tag said. The sellers said that there were only four in existence, at least according to the internet.
I pulled over just to take a photo of this sign and try to find these "World Champion Butterbeans," only to find out that it wasn't a sack of butterbeans but instead a human named Butterbean who was a boxing champion with whom you could pose for a photo for $10. The sign will have to do.
After that, we had to jump off Lookout Parkway and on to the interstate toward Chattanooga. We found our way to Signal Mountain. Taft Highway is the place to be, with sellers lining up for miles on end. At Nellie's Duck Mart we met up with Lynn Short, who has been selling vintage for decades. She recently sold the Knitting Mill Building in Chattanooga, which featured dozens of antiques dealers. This fall her former manager will open a new shop in a mid-century modern building in The Bridge City. Lynn had some beautiful hats and vintage clothes for sale at the Duck Mart:
Also, check out these beautiful jars of trinkets by Nellie, the matriarch of the Duck Mart. Nestled in some of the jars are crinoids, tiny river fossils Nellie ha been collecting these from creeks since she was a small girl.
On Day two we visited with Kelly Mills. His dad ran a taxidermy shop on Signal Mountain for years. Kelley travels around the country buying taxidermy from estate sales. He was the first person to sell taxidermy on eBay. And he's a really nice guy. My city boy and I were fascinated with his collection, which is quite far from the wildlife we see in the suburbs. Also I bought these gold fabric covered antlers, which Kelly said were the only ones he'd ever seen covered like that.
Carlotta Yancey is a fellow Floridian -- from Floral City, Florida. I snagged this Bicentennial linen ($2) and amazing floral skirt:
On on our way back to Birmingham, we stopped in Mentone at the recommendation of a friend. There are a ton of sellers around the Mentone Market. The market was recently rebuilt after a fire and is a perfect place to grab a soda and play a game of checkers.
Right outside we met Nedra Manners ("Yes, you can say you met the real Miss Manners," she said.) Nedra owns an antiques store in Rome, Georgia, and has some spectacular jewelry.
Overall thoughts on the yard sale? It's worth doing, especially for people who love a good hunt. There are a mix of sellers -- from people who have just hauled stuff out to their front yard -- to the kinds of folks who do this for a living.
Planning is important: you have to know what areas to target because you cannot see it all. (We just drove a part of a part between Gadsden and Chattanooga, and still didn't see everything.) It's important to bring cash -- Square and Venmo are not words spoken here. You can and should negotiate and you will find things at a much lower price than what you'll find on Etsy and Ebay.
Restrooms are few and far between, so if you can find one, make good use of it. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a huge bag. And if you see that thing you absolutely must have, snag it -- it won't be there when you will return. Happy trails.