Sunday, August 3, 2003

Bargain hunters wheel and deal for treasures



By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] A van speeds by as Julie Wyne (left) of Waynesburg, Pa., shops from the back of Clifton Galiher's truck during the World's Longest Outdoor Sale Saturday in Union, Ky.
(Mike Simons photo)
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Lion King toys. Tiger-print clothes. Chicago Bears gear. Oh, my.

All this and more can be found at the World's Longest Outdoor Sale, 450 miles of steals and deals that stretch from MainStrasse Village in Covington to Gadsden, Ala.

Mike Jaber, 47, selling his goods in Covington, is the quintessential salesman for such an event.

As people fingered strands of glass beads in his jewelry case, he exclaimed: "It's all cheap, too! You won't believe the prices! No reasonable offer refused!"

The Cold Springs resident has been hawking his wares at flea markets and yard sales for about 20 years.

"The history of our country lies in our flea markets," he said. "There are millions of stories here."

[IMAGE]
The sale originated in 1987, the idea of former Fentress County, Tenn., executive Mike Walker, who hoped to attract travelers from the interstate and onto the less-traveled highways of Tennessee and Kentucky.

The idea took off. Now each August, the streets are lined with every piece of trash and treasure imaginable - from bicycles to board games, egg cups to Elvis paintings. It's almost as if online auction site eBay exploded all over a rural road.

In past years, shoppers complained that four days wasn't long enough for the haggling and rummaging. So this time around, organizers extended the sale along the U.S. 127 corridor (Dixie Highway and U.S. 42 in Northern Kentucky) to nine days.

It began 7 a.m. Saturday and runs through Aug. 10.

Early morning storms and flash floodings did not deter shoppers or sellers.

Fred Couch, 52, of Fairmount began setting up his booth at 3:30 a.m. Saturday in Covington. He brought a fat roll of plastic sheeting to protect his goodies.

"We stuck it out, and around 8 or 9 a.m., it paid off when we got a really good crowd," he said.

Down the road in Union, Clifton Galiher, 69, placed most of his merchandise in the back of his truck parked near his home: "I wanted to keep it all close, because they said more heavy rains are a-comin'," he said. "But, boy, is everyone stoppin'. Everyone loves a yard sale."

Indeed.

Robert and June Smith of Spotswood, N.J., began their shopping in Union and planned to continue their search for cookie cutters and teapots the entire length of the sale to Alabama.

"We came prepared," said June, opening her purse to reveal a neatly folded rain poncho. The two were also armed with walkie-talkies to maintain contact in crowds of competitive shoppers.

Dedicated consumer Deloris Hall, 67, of East Liverpool, joined by her daughters and granddaughters, pulled her own shopping bag on wheels.

"We decided this would be a time when all the gals could get together and do some serious shopping," she said.

Most everyone, it seemed was seeking something special.

"I'm here for those hidden treasures," said Cheryl Butler, 45, of Union, who wandered the sales booths with a pet ferret tucked in her overalls. "I'm always hoping to find that antique, first-edition rare book for two bucks."

Further south in Tennessee, Joyce Sheppard, 47, of Cincinnati described her version of the bargain-hunting refrain: "What's the cheapest price?"

"You never pay what they ask," Sheppard said after paying 75 cents for a children's book.

She laid the book in the trunk of her shopping companion's car parked beside U.S. 127 north of Signal Mountain, near a cluster of folding tables stacked with collectibles.

Sheppard said she and Debbie Hunsche, 54, of Dover, Ind., stayed overnight in Chattanooga, Tenn., before starting the spree of outdoor shopping that will have them backtracking toward home.

Their return date is uncertain.

Fun finds

1960s-era box of Tampax - $2.50.

Rainbow Brite horse, Starlite - $1.

Politically incorrect ashtray - 50 cents.

Mayor McCheese McDonald's glassware - $4 each.

Pewter figurines of dragons - $1.

Artwork of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - $5.

Green glass plate - $10.

Wooden nightstand (belonged to seller's grandmother) - $25.

McCall's magazine (1956) - 25 cents.

Half a coffee mug - $1.

If you go

What: The World's Longest Outdoor Sale.

When: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.through Aug. 10. Second Sunday Antiques show runs 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 10 on the Sixth Street Promenade in Covington's MainStrasse Village.

Where: Begins in Covington's MainStrasse Village and extends along U.S. 127 through much of Kentucky and Tennessee to Lookout Mountain Parkway in Chattanooga, Tenn. From there, signs direct shoppers to Gadsden, Ala.

Northern Kentucky rules: Anyone can be a vendor. In Covington, you can set up your own tables along the Sixth Street islands. Tables must be taken down nightly; spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The MainStrasse Village Association holds the permit. There are no fees.

Traffic: The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet advises motorists to wear seat belts, drive slowly, avoid tailgating, not make U-turns and avoid parking on the shoulder.

Shopping tips: For the best selection, shop early. For the lowest prices, shop the last weekend of the sale. Wear comfortable clothing, and carry plenty of water, sunscreen and hand sanitizer.

Information: Web site. or call the MainStrasse Village Association at (859) 491-0458.

The Associated Press contributed. E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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