Throw in good cooking and a four-day “treasure hunt,” and you have the ingredients for one of the most anticipated events in the South: the U.S. 11 Antique Alley 502-mile yard sale.
The annual event, now in its 17th year, starts the first Thursday after Mother’s Day (this year, it’s May 16-19), and stretches from Meridian, Miss., to Bristol, Va. Other stops along the route include Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Trenton, Ga.; Chattanooga, Lenoir City and Knoxville.
The event was originally created as an economic opportunity for anyone to set up along the route and sell anything (and everything) from antiques to yard sale items.
In the event’s early days, it was estimated that 10,000 individuals might travel the corridor, but the numbers have grown to more than 30,000 over the four-day event.
There is renewed interest in this kind of event, according to event coordinator Butch Raper.
“With more and more shows on HGTV and the DIY network, people are finding more ways to recycle, re-purpose and up-cycle items from flea markets, vintage and second-hand stores. An event such as this one offers unlimited potential for new projects,” he said.
Each town along the route is responsible for planning and organizing its own sales, flea markets, and special events to attract visitors. Small store owners are more likely to try and bring the visitors to their stores, rather than setting up their wares at other locations directly on the route.
In Kingsport, Moses and Carol Gentry, owners of Nooks & Crannies Antiques (on Broad Street), hold special sales throughout their 20,000 square feet of antiques and collectibles. Other local antiques vendors set up on the sidewalks to draw visitors into the city's downtown district.
The website, www.us11antiquealley.com, is a great tool for helping plan your trip. It contains information on advertising, vendor space availability, general information, and a map of the route. Many towns along the route have their own links listed as well. There is also information on special events and sales, local attractions and available vendor space.