GREENFIELD — At 824 miles in length and spanning the roadsides of U.S. 40 from Baltimore to St. Louis, the Old National Road Yard Sale is not only the second-longest yard sale in the U.S., but it might well be one of best-attended.
Today through Sunday, thousands will traverse the Old National Road — which runs right through downtown Greenfield — looking for antiques, collectibles, toys, clothes, and even larger items like furniture, boats and cars, all at bargain prices.
Patricia McDaniel, owner of Old Storefront Antiques in Dublin, and Donna Tauber, Old National Road Association board of directors member, collaborated on the idea in 2004 to promote tourism on the Old National Road and celebrate its bicentennial.
“We looked around and saw all kinds of expensive bicentennial events, and we wanted to make something that a family of six or more could do,” McDaniel said. “You give each of the kids a couple of dollars to spend at a yard sale, and they could say they helped celebrate the bicentennial of the road.”
The two women, using McDaniel’s antique store as their headquarters, began passing out fliers to businesses and members of the community. The first year, the sale ran from Richmond to Knightstown. The second year, Greenfield wanted in. Soon, it stretched from Richmond to Indianapolis, and after that, the sale’s route grew to its current length of 824 miles from Baltimore to St. Louis.
“You can spend hours or days, and people come from all over. I’ve met people during the sale from 35 different states, as far away as Texas and California,” Tauber said. “Some people just do local sales, some do Indiana, some rent U-Haul trailers and do the whole thing.”
With 824 miles of roadside sales, serious bargain-hunters would do well to pack a survival kit. A well-stocked kit, according to the Old Storefront Antique Store in Dublin, would include snacks, water, a shoulder bag for small treasures, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, a strong set of arms for moving furniture, a sense of humor, and, of course, lots of the “green stuff” — money.
The scope of the sale has evolved over the years to include not only individuals but whole communities. Greenfield, with its rural location at Mile 579 along the yard sale route, finds itself in the heart of yard sale country. Greenfield Main Street, headed up by Shelley Swift, is renting out spots on the courthouse lawn for Saturday of the sale.
“It’s a great location and very well-traveled … a perfect spot for it,” Swift said.
Spots remain available. Call 317-586-8166 for info.
Patricia McDaniel fields a lot of calls at the store about the sale and has answered all kinds of questions — even some she wouldn’t have a prayer of knowing the answers to.
“One lady asked me for a list of all the restrooms along U.S. 40 in Indiana,” McDaniel said. “I told her it changes from year to year because some of the trees fall down.”
She also has seen just about everything being sold along the route.
“I’ve seen anything and everything that’s legal, I hope,” McDaniel said, but the most unusual thing she’s seen was earthworm casings to be used as fertilizer.
“They were going for $5 a quart,” McDaniel said.
It is an event that continues to grow. Tauber remembers the first couple years took everyone by surprise.
“It was wall-to-wall people. The restaurants ran out of food. The gas stations ran out of toilet paper,” Tauber said. “I know people who start planning for next year the minute this year’s sale is over.”
Greenfield resident Emily Golob lives about a mile north of the Old National Road near the intersection of Broadway Street and McKenzie Road. She used to do an annual garage sale in April but found that moving her sale to the Old National Road Sale weekend increased her foot traffic considerably.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re not on (U.S.) 40,” Golob said.
Her sale strategy includes advertising as well as putting out brightly colored signs with good directions from the main drag to her home just a few blocks away.
“That’s very important,” Golob said. “I get compliments on my signs, but even if I have amazing signs, if I don’t advertise, I don’t get good results.
“People come to sales knowing what they want. People will ask for something specific like buttons, tools, fishing poles or costume jewelry. One woman pulled up to the curb at my sale one year and asked if I had any kitchen cabinets. She even yelled out the measurements she was looking for.”
Greenfield Main Street’s sale will be on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“One person’s junk is definitely somebody else’s treasure,” Golob said.