Monday, October 3, 2011

World's Largest Garage Sale

Warrensburg, New York has been hosting "The World's Largest Garage Sale" since 1979. People come from all surrounding counties and nearby states to this annual event. They arrive in pick up trucks, U-Haul trucks, cars, motorcycles, and RV's looking for trash and treasure.  Portable vending trucks set up, tempting all, with Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, cotton candy, hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, onion blossoms and any other item that can lead you straight to your cardiologist. 
Every square inch of space is consumed with tents and merchandise. In the early years the sellers were families looking to supplement their income by selling clothes, shoes and toys they no longer needed. It was a good way to help purchase wood for the belly of a wood stove, help reimburse one for school taxes, paid at the end of September, or to provide a little extra cash for Christmas. It began on Saturday morning around 7 a.m., rain or shine. 

When it first started, my husband and I would walk around town seeing what everyone had to sell. In 1982 I remember attending with my father. My first purchase was an antique oak dresser with a beautiful mirror. I still have that dresser today and it has made a wonderful unit, used in my breakfast room, holding cloth napkins, placemats and an array of dinner candles.

As the event continued, this little town became busier and busier.  The one place you wanted to avoid was Warrensburg the first weekend in October. A few days before the sale started, you made sure you had plenty of bacon from Oscar's Smoke House, your meat was purchased from Jacob's and Toney and all your banking was taken care of. The last place you wanted to venture was into this little town come Friday afternoon when vendors began to arrive.

In 2001 I started participating. I thought it was a good opportunity to clean out the cellar, get rid of everything I loved and had emotional attachment to. Once I arrived in the cellar, I couldn't bring myself to start the sorting process, so I figured I'd first sell all the baby wares I no longer needed, now that my boys were 3 years old.  I had packed away the precious baby items I knew I'd never be able to part with, so no emotional harm was done when I rounded up all the goods I knew others were looking for. Selling was fun and it became a challenge.
As my boys aged, they would help me haul things up from the cellar, label items and wonder how much money they were going to get from all the toys, clothes and video games that were placed on the tables.  This year they decided they wanted to participate to make money for themselves.  My one son is very creative and he wanted to make and sell duct tape roses, as well as a maze he created, naming it The Mind Morpher.  His brother wasn't quite sure what to do so we helped him decide to sell coffee and hot chocolate. Having a Keurig machine made his set up very easy. They now had a plan.
100 duct tape roses
The boys decided to set their tent up Friday morning around 11 a.m. in the hopes of selling some coffee and roses later that afternoon. What use to be is no longer, each year people start selling earlier than in years past. There is no school the Friday of garage sale weekend and vendors, along with local families, now set their booths up Thursday night to start selling bright and early Friday morning. Friday turned out to be a good day for rose sales. The warmer weather and sunshine helped but put a damper on hot coffee.
Everything is sold. If you want it, you'll find it and how people advertise their wares is very unique.
This year, vendors brought in hats of all shapes and sizes. The biggest sellers were Angry Bird hats.
If you don't have a table, throw it out on the lawn. People love this style of display!
Just one of the vendors people flock to.

The fried dough is so big it takes two paper plates and two hands to carry it away.
Saturday morning we woke the boys at 5:15 a.m. so they could head out for a good day of sales. Were the boys excited about this, NO, it was very cold and very wet. It would have been a wonderful day to plop ones butt in front of the television set with a big bowl of popcorn or stow away in an oversized chair near a fireplace with a good book. With the change in weather, rose sales started slow but cups of hot coffee and hot chocolate were flying out from underneath the tent. 

At 9:30 a.m. the rain and wind picked up, and at one point the boys wondered if they were going to have to close up shop for the day. Michael was all for going home but his brother wasn't. Patrick is the all time pursuer of cash and will work very hard for his stash. Patrick has the patience of a saint and will hold out until the the final hour and then some.

They are very good at hawking their merchandise, however, they did have a lull for a couple hours. This can be very discouraging for two young boys, especially when you see everyone walking by with their hands full and no third hand to carry a cup of coffee. Some had coffee already, so I had reminded Michael to start letting the passersby know they could refill those cups at his booth. The hour of reckoning was shortly after the noon whistle blew, 9 girls came by for hot chocolate. Once people see your booth is popular, more and more people will stop by. For the next 5 hours both drink sales and rose sales were outstanding and we were very pleased with the final tally.
I asked the boys Sunday morning what they learned about themselves. Patrick had no major revelations about himself, but Michael learned that he had more patience than he thought. I asked if they would do it again next year and they both said yes, however, Michael thinks he would like to switch professions. Rose production has gone into process for next year, Patrick has an inventory of about 30, and Michael has plenty of time to figure out what he'd like to sell.

As I look back on this weekend, I am very proud of my boys entrepreneurial spirit. They had the fortitude to stick it out and make the best, of what could have been, a very bad weekend. They learned never to give up, even when your spirit has been dampened by mother nature.

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