Maybe it was the sunshine Saturday. Maybe it was all the cool stuff being sold. Or the hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries and soft drinks along the way.

But maybe the 10-mile yard sale that began in Cornville 33 years ago and has sprawled since then into Skowhegan and Athens and scores of side roads in between, finally has gotten too big for its britches.

On West Ridge Road in Cornville, cars were gridlocked four wide in places on what is otherwise a quiet, two-lane country road. In Skowhegan, police ticketed and towed vehicles parked illegally where the yard sales cluster on Dr. Mann Road and Malbons Mills Road.

“It’s very congested, very busy, a lot of people,” Skowhegan police Chief Don Bolduc said around noon Saturday. “There were parking issues we had to deal with and a domestic disturbance they dealt with, but for the most part we’re trying to stay on top of the parking problems.”

Bolduc said by noon five tickets had been issued for illegal parking and five cars were towed at the owners’ expense.

Parking is prohibited on the east side of Malbons Mills Road and on the north side of Dr. Mann Road on yard sale weekend in May in Skowhegan, but not everyone was abiding by the rules. Some of the violations were so blatant, Bolduc said — reducing the Skowhegan roads to one lane — that vehicles were towed after attempts to reach the owners proved unsuccessful.

“We’re trying to keep the public way free so in case there’s an emergency, we’ve got to get an ambulance or firetruck up there,” Bolduc said. “Unfortunately there’s a lot of people and they’re not adhering to the ‘no parking’ signs.”

Bolduc said the town of Skowhegan is not responsible for any part of the yard sales and suggested there be more overall organization to the event, which draws thousands of people every year. He said there has been discussion about establishing a parking lot on private property near the Malbons Mills Road corner in future years.

“They definitely need to do something different,” he said.

In Cornville, parking is allowed on both sides of the road, making travel in a single lane for the yard sales slow.

The whole yard sale thing began with a few families getting together for lawn sales on West Ridge Road in 1983. The idea spread to 3 miles, then 6 miles and finally to 10 miles from Cass’ Corner at the top of West Ridge Road on Route 150 all the way to U.S. Route 2 at the Kennebec River in Skowhegan.

Business was good Saturday, with some of the proceeds going to worthy causes.

At the Athens Community School, teachers and volunteers set up tables for the first time this year. Caroline Viles, of the Athens Parents and Teachers Association, said the group was selling items to fund a snack backpack program, in which students get to take healthy food home on long weekends and over winter vacations.

“Four years ago a teacher mentioned that there were some kids that really struggled with food; the Cornville Athens Food Cupboard is open once a month,” Viles said. “That really is hard for some families. Backpacks go home to kids that need them with food in them.”

Over at Cass Corner in Cornville, several families set up for the yard sales Saturday in an expansion from previous years.

Betty and John Dow, who once lived in a big house at the corner, continue to set up tables for the yard sales, as they have for 30 years. In fact, Betty Dow said, they sold their house during one of the yard sales.

“We sold the house. At one of those yard sales we sold the house,” she said. “They wanted to see it, and I said, ‘You’ll have to come back tomorrow. I’m so busy with the yard sale.’ They were back the next day and I heard from my Realtor — sold.”

Along the yard sale route Saturday, snowmobiles were for sale, along with furniture, fishing equipment and boats, appliances and tools. One young man, Issac Bussell, of Athens, bought a box full of baseball and basketball cards for his collection.

“We were here at 7,” Betty Dow said. “By 8:30 it was just packed. They were coming in every direction. This year we brought rhubarb and it’s going like hotcakes.”

Another man had set up yellow lawn chairs at the end of his driveway on West Ridge Road and waved to passers-by as though he was watching a parade. Forsythia was in bloom and chickens scratched in barnyards among the dandelions all along the route.

Jim and Kelly Burns, of St. Albans, set up tents and tables with family members on a wide lot on West Ridge for the fourth year in a row. Business was brisk, they said of the antique tools, stoneware, knives, glassware, clothes, books and furniture.

“I think it’s the variety of items that speak to a wider audience,” Kelly Burns said of the popularity of their spot, which coincided with one of the traffic jams. “We do very well. It always amazes us how well we do.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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