The 127 Yard Sale—also known as “The World’s Longest Yard Sale”—is a 690-mile event spanning six states. Sales run almost continuously along one route through Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. The sale was created in 1987 to encourage drivers to get off the interstate and bring more business to the rural counties. Every year, sales begin on the first Thursday of August and last four days.
When my friend Lisa Guerriero and I first heard of this event, we decided to head out on a road trip. We’re both photographers with an affinity for flea markets and vintage finds, and this seemed like a perfect event to document.
Endless adventures awaited us on the journey. In Ohio, Lisa got to ride in a vintage three-wheeled golf cart that was for sale. In Georgia, a family of country singers serenaded me on their front lawn during their sale. In Tennessee, I slept in a tool shed in an empty field, with no electricity or water beneath a great expanse of stars.
Lisa and I met a cast of characters, saw the weird and the wonderful, made lifelong friends, and photographed almost every inch of the route. Our photographs show these moments, and we hope you enjoy the ride.
Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Elmer owns the Hip-E-Beads shop in McDonald, Tennessee. The shop carries beaded jewelry, purses, hemp clothing, and his signature homemade car tire sandals. Elmer also sells branded mugs, beer cozies, blankets, stickers, and tie-dyed T-shirts with his face and slogan: “Do you know Elmer?” He has a booth in Signal Mountain, Tennessee with dozens of other vendors this weekend and gives me an enamel pin that says “I Know Elmer.”
A homemade yard sale sign and tube man made out of recycled pool noodles and rafts.
West Brow, Georgia
A man standing near a framed poster of Fairbank’s Gold Dust. This advertisement was for an all-purpose cleansing agent from the late 1800s. The twins on the front of the ad were the product’s trademark.
This is just a small part of Loretta McVey’s salt and pepper shaker collection. I’m a fellow shaker collector, but still can’t resist buying a set of ‘50s pink linen bowling napkins for $3.
Russell Springs, Kentucky
Doug Turner’s fruit stand is set up in the parking lot of The Springs Motel where I spend my last night. I meet him in the morning and we have coffee in the parking lot. He did not sleep in the motel but slept on this cot to keep watch over his watermelons. He buys produce from the Mennonite communities in the countryside and resells them to restaurants and retailers throughout Kentucky. I buy two of his green bell peppers for $1.
Memaw’s Home Cooking is an excellent space to stop on the 127 for a meal and great shopping. Every year, this family transforms their home into a pop-up restaurant. They serve affordable home-cooked lunch specials and pies. Their garage becomes an antique shop for the sale weekend.
Russell Springs, Kentucky
Brenda Grubb is having a joint yard sale with all of her neighbors. We bond over our mutual affection for Dolly Parton. She tells me that she gets a season pass to Dollywood every year. She also mentions that diabetes led her to kidney failure. She is on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant.
This is the booth of Edward, Linda, John, and Jonah. They are antique dealers from Texas. They tell me they buy junk and sell fine antiques. John has dressed a deer mount in vintage clothes and decorated another with a recycled table cloth. The group travels and sells their goods at antique shows throughout the year. Twice a year they sell at Round Top, the biggest antique trade show in Texas.
Russell Springs, Kentucky
Denville is selling cast iron cookware and used car parts in an abandoned lot. He and his friend named Pooh sell together at the yard sale every year. The money they make from the sale they use for their hobby of building custom rat rod vehicles. The men sleep in their trucks for the weekend to watch their belongings, but they still have a bicycle stolen from their yard sale stand in the middle of the night. I buy two Matchbox cars from Denville for $1.
The Cedar Inn rents out space in their parking lot to yard sale vendors each year.
A handmade flying turkey mount by Tim Harrison. Tim is selling his art piece for $75. Right in the center of the frame is the bullet he shot the turkey with. Tim has the most interesting antiques for sale, including primitive farm equipment, Civil War memorabilia, and a handmade glass kaleidoscope. Tim and his wife Sally are retired but play Mr. and Mrs. Clause in the local parade each Christmas. Sally gives me some of her homemade goat soap.
Josie, a mail carrier in Hudson, opens up her barn for her first 127 Yard Sale. I really want to take home one of the three Coca-Cola machines, but instead I splurge on some 10-cent records: Johnny Cash at San Quentin, Country & Western Stars, and two LPs of Hawaiian music.
One of the strangest things I come across in four days: a 1960 Red Cross Resuscitation Annie, in her original box.
Van Wert, Ohio
Ladies digging through the dollar toy bin in Van Wert, Ohio.
Antique hand-drawn portraits rest on a set of vintage dining chairs in front of Irene’s house. I’m unable to fit a portrait in my suitcase, so I buy a ‘50s California map tea towel for $4 instead.
If you go
The next 127 Yard Sale will take place between August 6 and 9, 2020. The unofficial hours of the sales are generally sunrise to sunset. Maps of the route, lodging info, attractions, and vendor information can be found on the event website.