When the Great U.S 50 Yard Sale started 15 years ago, it was designed to promote tourism in southern Indiana by encouraging Hoosiers to hold yard sales along the highway, which runs across the width of the state.
The yard sale, which started Friday and concludes today, still plays a tourism role, but some groups have found other ways it can be beneficial.
The North Vernon Senior Center is using the Great U.S. 50 Yard Sale as a way to raise funds for the center, for example.
“We lost a big part of our funding this year, and we are having to try all kinds of things to keep the center going,” senior center coordinator Ruth Bosch said.
“People have been bringing in donations of things to sell, and we will have several tables full of items. We are also renting out tables for other people to use during the sale. We are hoping for a sizable profit. We need it,” she added.
North Vernon resident Tom Taylor, who helped launch the yard sale, said there is no way of knowing if it has been a big year for the event until the weekend is over. He said there is no requirement that people must notify him to say they are going to participate.
“A newspaper in Kansas called me a couple of weeks ago and said there was a lot of interest there this year. We don’t have a lot of rules, but we encourage people to let us know how it went through the website (route50.com/yardsale.html),” Taylor said.
The yard sale, often called the “Nation’s Yard Sale,” is conducted every year during the weekend before Memorial Day.
“We thought it would encourage people to follow the trail of yard sales and maybe see parts of the state they normally would not travel,” Taylor said.
U.S. 50 is the longest highway in the nation. It starts in Maryland, near Washington, and ends in Sacramento.
The idea of having a series of yard sales along one highway on the same day caught on, and several other states that U.S. 50 crosses joined in the fun.
“I am amazed the thing is still going on at all. Sometimes it seems like it has run its course, and then it comes back stronger the following year,” Taylor said.
He added that local interest still seems strong.
“It looks like there will be a concentration of sales between Vernon and Seymour, up through Bedford and around Butlerville and Versailles. It kind of moves around. An area might have many booths one year and then the next year maybe not. We’ll just have to wait and see how things go this year,” Taylor said.
Becky Goins, operator of the Big Lot Auction Barn in Butlerville, said she is sure they will have many individuals gather around her business to operate their own individual yard sale booths.
“They gather here every year. There will probably be food vendors, too, and it makes everything like a big community gathering. It’s fun,” Goins said.
Ripley County Tourism Director Katherine Taul said she thinks it will be a good year for the Great U.S. 50 Yard Sale in her neighborhood.
“We’ll have several people set up around the Welcome Center in Versailles. This year the group Friends of Versailles State Park is going to have a booth concentrating on outdoor equipment. There will be tents, a canoe and all kinds of camping equipment. I think that will go over well,” Taul said.