Meridian Star

Local News

May 16, 2014

502 miles of shopping, antiques and fun

MERIDIAN —     James Weathers yard is covered with a variety of booths from various people with items for sale during the event known as the "U.S. Antique Alley", a 501 mile yard sale that begins in Meridian and ends in Bristol, Va.

    On Thursday, Gary Reynolds was selling his hand carved walking sticks near the highway for the event that runs through Sunday.

    Cooke Auction and Estate Appraisal Service had a table full of a variety of items, with others selling antiques and whatnots.

    Always held the four-day weekend after Mother's Day in May the event has been going on for nearly a decade.

    "About seven years we've been doing it," Weathers said.

    When asked if Weathers rents the space to all the booths in his yard, he replied, "No, they're just friends. We just visit and eat and have a big time and try to sell something."

    When asked about the perfect weather Weathers said, "The good Lord's taken care of us every year."

    When asked about how much money he makes, Weathers said, "It varies. A lot of times you aren't making any money. You're just getting your some of your money back for what you already spent. If you don't like to do it, with all the hard work - you REALLY ain't making nothing."

    Weathers said thousands usually show up each year.

    "We have people from Las Vegas, Texas, Arkansas - they come from all over," Weathers said. "I've had the mailman leave me a sign saying he can't drop the mail off for all the cars in the road."

    "I get so many people, I had to put in a portajohn," he said laughing, "but don't put that in the paper."

    The event has grown so popular that at times it seems like whole little communities spring up for just four days and then vanish the Monday after the weekend. A section of road near 1519 Highway 80 in Meridian normally has a single solitary building on it but on the weekend of the U.S. 11 Antique Alley it looks like a rock festival, or a circus has moved in, where tents, campers, RVs, and canopies numbering nearly 50 set up cause cars to line up for as much as a mile along side the highway.

    Pete Beckham shows a two shelf unit to Jill and Rick Carlberg in his canopy in this little community and tells her the price is $25.

    "Would you take $18?" she asks. Beckham nods in the affirmative. Showing how things are done at the yard sale and part of the great appeal. The price is not necessarily THE price.

    Jill Carlberg says that's why she goes - looking for bargains. "I have found a lot of good bargains over the years. I'm going to paint this one and keep it."

    When asked how often she attends Carlberg replied with a laugh, "Ever since I've known about it, maybe four years."

    Pete Beckham has been participating for three years "as a hobby." He concurs with Weathers that attendance is in the thousands.

    In fact, the estimate by the Chamber of Commerces who joined forces on this brainchild is that nearly 30,000 visitors pass through the event at points along the way, 20,000 more than they estimated would attend.

    The official start of the yard sale seems to be on Highway 11 and 80 next to the Peavey plant in Meridian and continues on to Birmingham, Ala., to Dade County, Ga., and on to Chattanooga and Knoxville in Tennessee, with Bristol, Va. signaling the end of the event. If the weather holds up it could make a great way to spend a cool but sunny Saturday.

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