Skowhegan police will have their pencils sharpened and their parking ticket books ready for action this weekend.
The annual 10-mile yard sale is Saturday and Sunday. The event starts on West Ridge Road in Cornville and ends at the confluence of Malbons Mills and Dr. Mann roads in Skowhegan, with dozens of side roads in between.
“I hear it can be a traffic nightmare — that’s what worries me,” said Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais, who was hired last June. “I haven’t experienced this yard sale firsthand yet. I’m going to call each one of our local tow services to make sure they are at the ready in case we need to get some cars moved.”
He said he and Deputy Chief Donald Bolduc will be on duty this weekend, along with regular patrol officers.
Electronic signs will be prominently displayed telling yard salers there is no parking on the east side of Malbons Mills Road and on the north side of Dr. Mann Road.
“We’re going to make sure we keep people from parking on the sides of those street,” Blais said. “I’ve heard that some folks just see something they really can’t live without and stop their car right there in the middle of the road. It’s important to keep the roads open for emergency services, such as fire and ambulance, to be able to get up through there.”
This year is the 31st consecutive year of the sometimes bumper-to-bumper sales on lawns and in barns and garages all along the route. Items for sale run the gamut: baseball cards, Army surplus clothing, framed pictures, tools, plant seedlings, antiques, farm equipment, toys, baby clothes, dishes, and more.
Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said his crews will put up the no parking signs, based on the yearly increase in yard sales and shoppers on the Skowhegan end of the route over the past few years.
“I noticed a significant change about 10 years ago,” Dore said. “About six years ago it hit its peak in Skowhegan, where we had utter chaos up there. Once the police towed some cars and wrote a few tickets it seemed to be under control.”
The annual yard sales, now known as the 10-Mile Yard Sale, began 31 years ago 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 it was renamed the Six-Mile Yard Sale.
Now the sprawling flea market stretches for 10 miles from state Route 150 at Cass’ Corner in Cornville to U.S. Route 2 at the Kennebec River in Skowhegan. Sales also have spread to include side streets and roads along the route and into neighboring Athens.
Offerings run from table rentals from the Cornville Regional Charter School to a bake sale and lawn sale to benefit the Athens Fire Department.
The estimated number of families holding yard sales along the route is up to about 50, according to event coordinator Janet Bernard of Nelson’s Candies on West Ridge Road in Cornville. She said a couple of years ago her father-in-law, Charley Bernard, counted 1,500 people in the store before noon on Saturday.
“I expect a pretty good crowd,” she said. “We’ve been advertising online since March, so I expect people will come out — they’ve been kind of cooped up all winter, so it’ll be a good weekend. Hopefully we’ll have good weather.”
The National Weather Service forecast calls for an 80 percent chance for showers on Saturday and a 50 percent chance for showers on Sunday. The event takes place 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, rain or shine