In her work preparing for the World’s Largest Garage sale next weekend, Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce president Lynn Smith answers a phone call in the chamber offices. Whether it was turning down a yodeler for the Sale entertainment lineup, answering vendors' questions, or arranging for porta-johns, Smith and her assistant Kelsey McGlinch have been busy this week.
The nationally-renowned World’s Largest Garage Sale may have colossal proportions, but at the helm of the 2001 event Thursday were a mere two people making last-minute arrangements for the event set for Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.
Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce President Lynn Smith and the Chamber’s administrative assistant, Kelsey McGlinch, were busy Sept. 22 setting up logistics for the event that annually swamps the small town of Warrensburg with 70,000 people or more over the first weekend in October.
Whether it was reserving 52 porta-johns, answering calls from the public, or settling qualms of vendors, they were taking it all in stride.
Immersed in her work, Smith dialed a phone call to Dennis Martinez. He’s assisted her for many years in her 10 organizing the big event.
“Should I line up those big buses or the smaller ones for Saturday?” she asked Martinez about reserving school buses to haul people through town at the Sale. “Okay, two big ones on Saturday and two little ones for Sunday, one handicap equipped, right?”
The phone rang, and McGlinch answered it. Smith looked up from her lengthy to-do list.
“We’ve been getting lots of calls from people who ask if the Garage Sale is cancelled because of Hurricane Irene,” she said shaking her head. “Do you believe it? We had no storm destruction! They must have seen news reports of those motels in Lake George that were flooded out.”
The flood — plus perhaps the stalled economy — has reduced the number of vendors signing up in advance for the World’s Largest Garage Sale, Smith said. One boat dealer who’s routinely participated had his entire inventory sunk by Irene, so he cancelled, she said. Several other veteran vendors, she added, are busy rebuilding their homes and businesses after the storm.
Not to worry.
The great sale has always drawn so many people annually to Warrensburg that it’s downtown is virtually immobilized for the days of the sale.
Folks from all over the Northeast U.S. and beyond cram the streets, browsing for bargains. Most of the action is along Main St., where wall-to-wall people is the norm.
The vendors, whether they are sock salesmen, antique hounds, tool vendors or food purveyors, want to be as close as possible to the action, Smith said.
“Everyone wants to be right on Main St.,” Smith said. “But those who have had those front spaces for years, don’t give them up.”
And the vendors take their battles seriously, Smith noted with a grin as she was examining registrations Sept. 22.
These skirmishes go into high gear on the Friday preceding the sale when most vendors pull into town, she said. Some arrive and bicker with neighboring vendors over space boundaries, or debate with Sale officials of whether their marked space is an inch or two short, she said.
“Some vendors say their neighbors are encroaching on their space, and others claim we’ve measured their spaces too small — and I referee the fights,” she said, adding that her tape measure is one of her most valuable possessions on Garage Sale weekend.
There are 209 Chamber-sponsored spaces this year at the sale, to be located in the parking lots of the Warrensburg Town Hall, the Warrensburg Health Center, Grand Union shopping center, and Glens Falls National Bank, plus the yards beside the town Senior Citizens’ Center, National Grid, and Grace’s Restaurant.
As of Sept. 22, a total of 180 were reserved, but a large number of late registrants were still reserving sale spots, McGlinch said.
One of the callers was a smoked barbecue vendor who claimed he had lost his vendor application — three times, Smith said.
“He’s not very organized,” she quipped.
These sponsored spaces are joined by hundreds of others on properties rented out by local businesses and residents, as well as personal yard sales.
Among the relatively new vendors signing up for Chamber spots this year was a man who sells door mats fashioned from recycled tires, an artisan who sells silver jewelry embedded with seashells, and an outfit with Tiffany-style lamps, Smith said as she was assembling instruction handbooks for the dozens of volunteers who help conduct the great sale.
This year’s vendors include no less than 12 sausage-and-pepper vendors, and Smith said she tries to spread them through town to minimize problems and boost their sales.
The new vendors have been replacing the veterans who increasingly are suffering health problems and selling their enterprises, she said.
One that’s dodged any such problems was a vendor who’s returning this year, but was turned down as an applicant for on-stage performance during the sale. A series of entertainers will be performing live from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days of the sale at the downtown bandstand.
“She yodeled at her booth last year, backed up by a karaoke machine,” Smith said, rolling her eyes. “It was unbelievable.”