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Now that black flies are beginning to come alive around here, Maine’s largest industry also begins to show signs of life. I’m referring, of course, not to BIW, but to the YSI – the Yard Sale Industry. It’s as important to Maine’s socio-economic life as BIW, tourism and potatoes combined and is overseen by the little-known but very powerful Flea, Barn, Garage and Yard Retailers Association.
It doesn’t matter what you call them – yard, lawn, garage, barn or attic sales – they are all part of the same industry and are all based on the same idea: Get some stuff out on a lawn somewhere and sell something – anything.
An article in the paper recently told about a sale that took place this past weekend on a stretch of road between Cornville and Skowhegan. In fact it’s called the annual 10-mile yard sale – with at least one yard sale every 100 feet or soon both sides of the street and running for 10 miles.
A man setting up his yard sale was quoted as saying: “Yard sales are as vital to life in our state as moose, lobsters, lighthouses and smelts.
This particular yard sale was the 31st and like yard sales of the past this year’s 10-mile yard sale brought bumper-to-bumper traffic to the area. It was scheduled to take place last Saturday and Sunday. Skowhegan police say they will mobilize towing services and patrol the area for traffic violations. The Morning Sentinel ( ) reports the event began with a handful of families and has grown in size and popularity.
The event begins every year at West Ridge Road in Cornville and ends at Dr. Mann and Malbons Mills roads in Skowhegan. Dozens of side roads in between also participate.
The whole thing lasts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Popular items for sale often included baseball cards, Army surplus clothing, and farm equipment.
Historians don’t know exactly when or where Maine’s first yard sale took place. The average Mainer doesn’t care when the first one was, he or she only wants to know when and where the next sale is.
If you go to enough YSI events, you’ll marvel at how this giant industry works. For example you’ll be at a YSI sale in Bristol and say: “Didn’t I see a combination hot dog steamer-wall paper remover in Bethel?”
That’s one of the many things the YSI does so well. It moves tons of items – both cheap and high-end – from places like Bristol to places like Bethel, while remaining totally unregulated and completely untaxed.
When the YSI is really humming it manages to unload tons and tons of yard sale items onto tourists who just can’t wait to strap the stuff to their vehicles and haul it all out of Maine.
There has been some evolution of the YSI over the years. The industry used to rely on Maine’s town dumps to supply product before they were all replaced by “transfer stations.”
In the old days a fella would load up his pickup and head for the town dump to heave everything down over the bank. He would then stand there beside his truck and scan the dump’s contents for discarded treasures.
Eventually he’d spot an old tub that would be perfect for watering the cow he planned to get someday. Into the truck would go the tub.
Then he’d spy some old barn boards for the deck he planned to build some day, an oil drum for starting his outboard each spring, when he actually got an outboard, an engine block that would make a perfect mooring for the boat he planned to build some winter, and a beautiful home entertainment center that looked like it just needed a little “tinkering.”
He would end up hauling twice as much stuff out of the dump as he hauled into it. After five or ten years all these items would be prime YSI material. And it all changed when the dumps closed.
But the YSI took the hit, retooled, adjusted and came back stronger than ever.
Now it’s your turn! In keeping with the spirit of the season, drag some junk out onto a lawn and start selling and reaping the YSI’s rewards.

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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