World's Longest Outdoor Sale


Vol. 7 Issue 39

Then: In 2001, CityBeat sent Brad King and Monte McCarter in search of America and Americana down US Route 127 during the World's Longest Outdoor Sale. The sale happens annually in August, touching the Tristate because 127 (and the sale) originates in Covington. King and McCarter found small towns, interesting folk and lots of kitsch littered along the old route that used to be a major thoroughfare prior to the onslaught of the national highway system. "Along US Route 127," the pair reported, "the people have a need for each other, and not because they want to sell their old books. In this world, 'neighbor' means more than the person living next door. Here, in the burned-out ruins of a time that's passed by, people are the most important commodity." (Issue of Aug. 16, 2001)

Now: Along the 127 corridor, people might be the most important commodity, but in Covington, it seems, people can also be the biggest liability, especially when they overstay their welcome.

In 2003, Fentress County Chamber of Commerce (FCCC) in Jamestown, Tenn., the group that runs the World's Longest Outdoor Sale, decided to expand the sale from four days to nine. That ruffled a few feathers here in town as well as along the sale route.

"First of all, we've never been consulted on the length of time the sale runs," says Jerry Bamberger, executive director of the MainStrasse Village Association.

"They decided to expand the sale without consulting us. That's an expensive proposition." Expensive because the association has to provide security, port-o-lets and cleanup crews for nine days instead of four. With a staff of two and a half, that's a lot of extra work and money.

"We tried it for nine days last year," Bamberger explains. "People left their boxes and their junk — anything that didn't sell. ... We don't want to inconvenience our residents by taking away their parking for nine days and letting people throw garbage in their yard."

Scott Sandman, director of the FCCC, says his board made the decision to try expanding the sale for two years. "As the sale had gotten more notoriety and publicity over the years, traffic had come to a standstill and people couldn't find anywhere to stay," he says. The idea was to spread out the sale over two weekends, hopefully luring people one weekend or the other and thus spreading out the traffic and the hotel rooms.

"We sent out a survey when we were deciding whether or not to expand the sale," Sandman states, "and we only got one back."

Maybe MainStrasse's copy got lost in the mail.

Sandman's gut feeling is that the sale will go back to four days, which should make Bamberger and Covington residents happy. Sandman reported that the vendors and residents in the communities along the sale route weren't pleased with the expansion. The shoppers, however, loved it.

"You're never going to make everybody happy," Sandman sighs.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? updates cover stories from throughout CityBeat's 10-year history.

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