Susan Lehan never liked it when hundreds of cars and thousands of people came down West Ridge Road from Cornville past her house on Malbons Mills Road in Skowhegan for the annual yard sales in May.

Too many people, too many cars, she said.

One year, 1,500 people were counted in just a four-hour span during the yard sales, which go on for two days.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years, and I’ve watched this yard sale go from three miles to 10 miles,” Lehan said. “Usually I leave town because I hated it — it’s so crazy. Each year it gets crazier and crazier, and you either get into to it or you leave.”

Then last year, her friend, Ron Veno, saw the potential of huge crowds passing the house and set up a commercial trailer in Lehan’s driveway, selling deep-fried candy bars, Oreos and Twinkies. Lehan’s opinion of all the traffic changed, she said, when she met so many nice people and made some money, which they donated to her church.

The yard sales are scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine.

The annual yard sales, now known as the 10-Mile Yard Sale, began 30 years ago this weekend with a handful of families getting together for a big lawn sale on West Ridge Road in Cornville.

It got bigger. And bigger.

For several years, people called it the Three-Mile Yard Sale, when the sales spread out in both directions. Then they called it the Six-Mile Yard Sale.

Now the sprawling flea market selling baseball cards, plant seedling, tools, books, farm equipment, antiques, clothing, military memorabilia and other items stretches for 10 miles from state Route 150 at Cass’ Corner in Cornville all the way to U.S. Route 2 at the Kennebec River in Skowhegan. Sales also have spread to include side streets and roads all along the route and into neighboring Athens.

Now the estimated number of families participating in the yard sales along that same route is up to 50, according to event coordinator Janet Bernard of Nelson’s Candies on West Ridge Road.

Philip Goodell, 79, said he and his late wife, Sandra, were among those first six or eight families that got together for a big lawn sale in 1983.

Goodell said the sales have leveled off over the years because people don’t have the money to spend. The crowds, however, are as big as ever.

Goodell said he sells framed pictures, tools, dishes, phonograph records, movie tapes, knives, clothes — and all kinds of junk.

“There’s old dolls here, a folding wooden box, a whole mess of beautiful pictures, a typewriter,” Goodell said during a brief tour of his garage. “There’s a wedding dress, if you want to get married. I don’t know what to get for it yet, because I don’t know nothing about them things. Don’t want to, either.”

One year, he said, he made $3,400 in the two-day sale.

“Last year I didn’t do so good, probably $1,300,” he said. “People aren’t spending like they used to.”

Deputy Chief Dan Summers of the Skowhegan police said since the yard sales expanded onto Malbons Mills Road and Dr. Mann Road, traffic and parking have become a focus of police attention. He said it is essential that the roads remain open for emergency vehicles and safety.

He said a police officer in a cruiser will be assigned to the area for the yard sales to make sure there are two lanes of traffic. The town Highway Department will be placing “no parking” signs along one side of each road.

Violators will be towed and tickets will be written, he said.

“There have been instances in the past when people just park right in the middle of the lane,” Summer said. “We try and make as much effort as we can to get the owners to move their vehicle, but it that doesn’t happen, we tow them.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
dharlow@centralmaine.com