HANCOCK COUNTY — With sequined sun visors shielding their eyes, the three Greenfield women were on the hunt.
Nina Zapf, Kathy Pershing and Candy Speas spent a sun-drenched Friday searching for the best bargains they could find at the National Road Yard Sale, which kicked off May 31 and runs through Sunday, June 4 this year.
The five-day annual sale that stretches more than 800 miles along U.S. 40, from Baltimore to St. Louis.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fun-filled event, which has strong local ties.
Donna Tauber of Knightstown founded the National Road Yard Sale in 2003, and has watched it grow exponentially over the years.
“I just talked to a family this week that will fly into St. Louis from California and drive their way east,” said Tauber, who loves the fact that the sale gets shoppers familiar with the historic Old National Road — otherwise known as U.S. 40 — which serves as Main Street throughout various cities and towns along the way.
On Friday, carloads of shoppers pulled off to the side of the road for multiple sales taking place throughout Hancock County.
“We’re just getting started,” said Pershing, who looks forward to spending a full day of shopping with her friends each year.
“We used to go as far as Richmond then turn around and come back, but now we typically stop in Knightstown,” said her friend Speas, who had a Tupperware container with a $4 price tag tucked under one arm, as Zapf fanned out a wad of cash to pay for a stack of clothes.
The longtime friends love the quality time they spent together as they hunt for the best bargains and most unique finds, a tradition they’ve kept for the past 10 years. They agreed that their best find of all time was a realistic-looking buzzard Speas bought and gave to her brother for his birthday. “We’re the same age, but we thought it was hilarious,” she said.
Mike Robbins of Maxwell also enjoys finding random bargains at the National Road Yard Sale each year.
“I look for all kinds of things for me or for my grandkids. If there’s a box of screws for a good price I’ll buy it rather than pay full price,” he said.
On Friday he stopped by a recurring sale just east of South CR 150 W to see if they had more live-edge wood slabs, the kind he’d purchased there the year before.
He went home with three more slabs after negotiating the price a bit with Caroline Hewitt, who takes part in a multi-family yard sale for the big event each year.
“I used the ash pieces I bought last year to make two benches,” he told her, as the two chatted while Robbins fished money out of his wallet.
Hewitt said she and her family enjoy the National Road Yard Sale as much as the shoppers do.
“I don’t know if we do it to sell stuff or if we just enjoy the company,” said Hewitt, as shoppers approached her with cash in hand.
She and her husband are among the four to five families that gather at her sister-in-law’s house each year to set up popup tents and tables in the front yard, in the 1800 block of U.S. 40 west of Greenfield.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” said her sister-in-law, Debbie Oslund, as carloads of shoppers pulled up in front of her house Friday morning.
Typically, the families enjoy a cookout and conversation as shoppers come and go throughout the five-day yard sale. “It’s a good time to hang out with family for the weekend,” said Hewitt’s daughter, Brandi Rady, who is Oslund’s niece.
The Shelbyville teacher uses the annual sale as motivation to purge both her classroom and her home of unwanted items, and to make a little money in the process.
“It can be pretty profitable,” said Rady, as she pulled dozens of stuffed animals from a garbage bag to add to the assortment of items arranged on tables beneath her popup tent.
As the Facebook page for the National Road Yard Sale indicates, individuals and vendors are encouraged to set up an assortment of roadside treasures for sale throughout the event, which coincides with festivals and community gatherings along the way.
Tauber, past president of the Indiana National Road Association, always intended for the sale to showcase the 824-mile-long historic road. The road runs parallel to I-70, passing through Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and was the first federally funded road in U.S. history. It was built between 1811 and 1834 to reach the western settlements.
While Robbins appreciates the history, he also appreciates the bargains he finds each year stopping at various sales throughout Hancock County.
“I’m sure I’ll be back next year,” he said as he loaded up three wood slabs into the back of his white pickup truck and drove off in search of more treasures.