PAULDING, Ohio -- Tim Hahns was trying to hang "garage sale" signs and flags in front of his house along U.S. 127 in Paulding on Thursday morning when he had to run inside the garage to tend to customers.
"We've done this for the last five years," he said. "It's a blast."
Thursday was the first day of what's billed as the "World's Longest Yard Sale." Running through Sunday, the trail of sales begins at Addison, Mich., just north of Hudson and extends some 690 miles down U.S. 127 to Gadsden, Ala. In northwest Ohio, the sale's path bisects Bryan, Sherwood, Paulding, and Van Wert.
There are tables filled with holiday decorations, furniture, racks of clothing, and antiques for as far as the eye can see.
Carol Stewart drove north to Paulding from her home near Sidney, Ohio, to check out the event she'd read about on Facebook. She, her husband, and grandson planned to shop their way back south.
Walking past a table of "fine porcelain" Marie Osmond dolls, Mrs. Stewart admitted she wasn't looking for anything in particular. "Just something we can't resist," she said.
Walter Page, executive director of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Jamestown, Tenn., where the sale started in 1987, said the event has grown every year.
"There are thousands upon thousands" of yard sales, he said. "If you take even 30 every mile for each mile that's like 21,000 yard sales. We've been asked that so many times, and there's no real easy way to try and come up with any kind of figure. We know traffic is extremely heavy all along the route in most cases."
Vendors who put their treasures out for sale don't have to pay a fee or register; it's simply an opportunity to cash in on an event that gets nationwide promotion. Mr. Page said the 127 Corridor Sale, as it's also known, actually was created as a way to attract motorists off I-40 in Tennessee and get them into Jamestown to spend some money -- at the yard sales but also at local restaurants and gas stations.
"People come from all over the country and, in some cases, all over the world," he said, adding that local economies benefit from the treasure seekers. "It's got that snowball effect. It's amazing. It truly is that shop till you drop mentality."
Jim and Barb Chandler of Peru, Ind., about 70 miles west of Fort Wayne, were making their first trip to the giant yard sale with another couple who were veterans of the sale. Mrs. Chandler said she and her husband are "not garage sale people," although they'd already picked up a chair and some speakers in Van Wert by 10 a.m.
"We just needed a break, a day off to do nothing," her husband said.
Larry Lee, executive director of the Van Wert Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Ohio joined the sale about six years ago and Van Wert has enjoyed the snowball effect Mr. Page mentioned. Its three hotels are booked for the weekend, which includes a Rib Fest at the Van Wert County fairgrounds Thursday and today with live bands and, of course, yard sales.
Deb Gerken, executive director of the Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission, said she's driven past the sales in past years and decided this year to get in on the action. Her agency was selling surplus equipment ranging from preschool toys to heavy laminate tables at the Pulaski Head Start building that it owns on U.S. 127 north of Bryan.
"We had a couple from Boston, Mass., that came in here. They said, 'We're doing the northern part of 127 this year. Last year, we did the southern part,'" a slightly incredulous Ms. Gerken said. "People take vacations to do this."
U.S. 127 is, for the most part, a two-lane highway, and the yard sales do wreak a bit of havoc with traffic.
"Our biggest problem is with truckers, but after six years they know what to expect," Mr. Lee said. "We've not had an accident. No one's gotten hurt, but truckers aren't real happy with this weekend."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.