CORNVILLE — In the beginning — 34 years ago — Tom and Peggy Hamilton of West Ridge Road in Cornville were delighted to take part in what was then just a gaggle of a few families having a yard sale together on the weekend before the Memorial Day weekend.

But the yard sales got bigger and expanded to include more and more families stretching for miles along the otherwise quiet West Ridge, bringing visitors — and traffic — from all over the place.

“It was crazy,” Tom, 66, a retired school teacher, said of what was to become the Cornville 10-Mile Yard Sale, which is this Saturday and Sunday. “We would leave for the day because of the congestion.”

Fast forward to 2012 and the Hamiltons were moving from their old drafty farmhouse on West Ridge Road to their new digs — a converted 1900 horse and cattle barn just up the road. They put some of their stuff out for the yard sale that year and came to like the traffic, all the people and congestion. From their new home, a beautiful, passive solar apartment in the big red barn, they have participated in the yard sales every year since.

“Now it’s all the way down (Route) 43, Cass Corner, Skowhegan, Dr. Mann Road — it’s really grown,” Tom said. “Now we are embracing it and making the best of it.”

This weekend, the Hamiltons will again join the 34th annual Cornville 10-Mile Yard Sale and will donate a portion of the proceeds to East Madison Square Garden, a music and art venue, and to community radio station Hooskow Radio, 98.1 FM WXNZ in Skowhegan.

Tom and Peggy, 66, also a retired school teacher who operates a yoga studio in a part of the remodeled post-and-beam barn, do a radio show together at the station inside the former Somerset County Jail called “The Great Escape.” They said their barn serves as a gathering place on yard sale weekend where family and friends come to hang out and sell stuff.

“I think it just became more convenient for us because we have this big space,” Peggy Hamilton said. “Now we don’t have to think about setting up everything outside and the weather. We can set up inside and welcome our friends.”

The Cornville yard sale began in 1983 when a handful of families got some stuff together for a combined lawn sale on West Ridge Road. Others liked the idea and joined in along the route, so that a few years later, people started calling it the 3-mile yard sale.

Then it became the 6-mile yard sale as more families joined in, stretching onto side roads and into Skowhegan. Now there are yard sales from Cass Corner on Route 150 in Cornville into Athens village and down West Ridge Road to Malbons Mills Road in Skowhegan and on to the Kennebec River on U.S. Route 2.

Items for sale include everything imaginable: baseball cards, baby clothes, Army surplus items, tools, antiques, plant seedlings, farm equipment, China sets, glassware, wood stoves and toys.

The Cornville yard sale has been a bumper-to-bumper shopping spree on more than 50 lawns, barns and vacant lots that are transformed into one long flea market — literally 10 miles long.

When the sales began to cluster in Skowhegan, the Police Department cracked down on people stopping their cars in traffic to browse the sales, which made parking a nightmare and a potential hazard for emergency vehicles to traverse the streets. Tickets would be written, police said.

Town officials in Skowhegan ask everyone to adhere to the no-parking signs in order to keep the roadway clear to allow traffic and emergency vehicles through.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said parking will be restricted.

Electronic signs will tell yard sale attendees parking is prohibited on the east side of Malbons Mills Road and on the north side of Dr. Mann Road. There are no parking restrictions on West Ridge Road in Cornville or on any other of the participating roads outside of Skowhegan.

Skowhegan police Sgt. Herb Oliver said two officers will be added this year to monitor traffic. Two other officers will be on general patrol.

The annual event now draws thousands of people from all over New England and Canada, said event organizer Janet Bernard of Nelson’s Candies on West Ridge Road.

“The weather is going to be in our favor, so I would expect a really good turnout,” Bernard said. “I’m getting a lot of inquiries. People are calling, asking for directions. There’ll be a lot of newcomers. I’ve had people call from out of state. They’ve never been here before so they’re looking for motels in the area. They really love the idea of being able to come and hit multiple yard sales all at once. We’ve had quite a few inquiries this year.”

The hours of the yard sales are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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