The World's Longest Yard Sale will go on as scheduled this year, but longtime shoppers will notice a few changes stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
For starters, along with commemorative T-shirts, tote bags and phone covers, a sponsor website is selling souvenir face masks.
Josh Randall, operations manager at Mountain Glen RV Park & Campground in Pikeville, Tennessee, which manages the sponsor site 127yardsale.com, sees that as a plus.
"By and large, I think this event can go on safely because you can wear masks when needed and it's pretty much entirely outdoors," he said. "From the feedback we're getting, [people] don't seem to think it's something to be very worried about. They're excited to participate."
The four-day sale, which starts Thursday, follows Highway 127 from Addison, Michigan, to Gadsden, Alabama [picking up on the Lookout Mountain Parkway south of Chattanooga]. Pandemic notwithstanding, thousands of shoppers are expected to converge on the 690-mile route, where vendors will be set up in parks, parking lots and pull-offs with merchandise ready for purchase.
See Hamilton County Health Department safety guidelines advised during the Antique Alley Yard Sale in May at www.timesfreepress.com.
Because the yard sale passes through six states and countless jurisdictions, there are no one-size-fits-all regulations, much like the wearing of face masks varies in individual cities, counties and states.
Randall said 127yardsale.com has added a dedicated page for COVID-19 updates to keep travelers apprised of the latest information and safety protocols. There are links to each participating state's health department, along with general guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"There's so much [variation] involved," he said. "Some states are still locked down. Michigan all along has been more aggressive with their lockdown. Some have statewide mask mandates [Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Alabama]. Georgia and Tennessee still don't."
Another change for 2020 will be the conspicuous absence of some vendors.
On Signal Mountain, that includes the American Haitian Foundation, whose yard sale in the Price-Rite Marking Systems Inc. parking lot on Taft Highway has grown into three tents, one jumbo-sized.
This would have been the 21st consecutive year for the yard sale, but the foundation's board of directors has decided to sit this one out because of concerns over the coronavirus, said board member Betty Miles. It will be a major financial hit for the nonprofit, which supports a 1,000-student school in Haiti.
"We are really, really hurting," Miles said. "Last year we made a little over $45,000. It's one of the two largest fundraising events we do to support the school."
To help make up those proceeds, the foundation has set up a donation link on its website, www.americanhaitianfoundation.org.
Likewise, the city of Danville, Kentucky, will not rent space at its fairgrounds, which hosted 90 vendors last year, according to news reports. In Fentress County, Tennessee, where the yard sale originated in 1987, officials are restricting the use of county-owned parks.
Leann Smith, executive director of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce, which manages the website 127sale.com, said those properties include a large community park in Jamestown where 175 vendors traditionally congregate.
"This year [the parks] won't be participatory," she said, though the vendors may find other places to set up. "I would think that's probably the same in other counties."
Smith said her office has been fielding phone calls and emails from potential visitors asking if the yard sale will be as big as in previous years, if there will be as many vendors as usual and where the must-stops for shoppers will be.
"That's hard to predict any year," she said, citing factors as diverse as the economy and the weather for variances in typical years. The coronavirus adds a whole new level of uncertainty.
"Our office is not taking the attitude that 'Woohoo, it's a yard sale,'" Smith said. "We do have a serious situation on our hands with coronavirus. We're trying to exercise a little more caution. We want folks to be responsible."
Dennis Frazier, who rents space to vendors at a family owned lot on the main thoroughfare in Pikeville, said he has room for 45 vendors and never knows how many will show up, although some spaces were already open for business this past weekend.
"Some years, all the spaces are taken. Last year, we only had about half of them," he said.
"We're just going to do about the same as before and hope [people] show up."
Email Lisa Denton at email@example.com.