Bargain-hunters browse among vendors’ offerings Saturday Oct. 5 along Main St. in Warrensburg during the town’s famous World’s Largest Garage Sale. Virtually everything from dollar-store items, tools and household goods to valuable antiques and rare collectibles were offered at the event.
Kathy Schell of Schenectady stood on a downtown street corner early afternoon Saturday Oct. 5, waiting for her husband Bruce to catch up with her.
In Warrensburg for the annual World’s Largest Garage Sale, Schell said she was happy to find among the hundreds of sale booths and tables a rare item of Italian Capodimonte porcelain, a decorative centerpiece. Her husband appeared after inspecting some “guy stuff” of interest.
This was her family’s first time attending the Warrensburg garage sale, Kathy Schell said.
“I can’t believe how packed it is,” she said, looking at the Main St. gridlock. Her husband added his thoughts.
“This is absolutely crazy,” he said, eyeing both the traffic and sidewalks crammed with people.
Crazy? No question. Some event organizers later estimated that judging by the traffic jams and the people swarming through town, Oct. 4 was the busiest single day in the event’s 34-year history.
Rare collectibles found all over town
The bag that Kathy Schell was lugging back to her vehicle Saturday held a large M&M character holding a basketball, which dispenses M&Ms when you depress its left arm. This collectible edition is rare, but she bought it at the Warrensburg sale for $15. At home in Schenectady, Schell has an entire room dedicated to M&M collectibles, Bruce Schell said as he rolled his eyes.
“Coming to this sale has saved me a trip to Vegas,” he quipped, noting last year they traveled there to buy a particular M&M character.
Octogenarian Jane LeCount, a co-founder of the World’s Largest Garage Sale, sat on her porch watching thousands pass by on the Main St. sidewalks. She and local activist Steve Parisi launched the sale in 1980, and it drew about 1,000 people that year. By 1983, the crowd had swelled to 25,000 or so. She coordinated the event for perhaps two decades. In recent years, crowds have numbered 70,000 or so, while organizers claim 100,000.
This year, the crowd numbered 75,000 on Saturday alone, event clean-up coordinator Gary Ross said.
LeCount looked past her small table of books and magazines she was selling, gazing at the crowd.
“This is amazing — I can’t believe how its grown,” LeCount said, noting that companion sales now are held in neighboring Chestertown, Lake George and Bolton. “I’m glad I’m not organizing this sale anymore.”
Walking past LeCount was Michael Leone and his family from Syosset, L.I. — He found antique Lionel train layout items, like shrubs and trees, in their original box. He bought the item for his father, a model train fan.
“This is great,” he said looking at the lineup of vendors. “You can find everything you are looking for in one shot.”
Leone also bought a classic Power Ranger lunchbox and a faux parking meter bank for his son Gabriel, 7.
Reaching up to the meter to insert a nickel, Gabriel demonstrated how it would collect lots of coins in its lengthy post, taller than he was. The family has visited the garage sale since three years before Gabriel was born.
“You put money in like this, and it doesn’t get lost — it’s saved,” Gabriel said. His father responded with a smile.
“Or mommy doesn’t borrow it,” Leone responded.
Local entreprenuers kept busy
Fifty feet away, David O’Neill of Warrensburg was demonstrating one of his coal-fired heating boilers that he said can save more than 60 percent of home heating costs.
“Some people walking by think this is a whiskey still,” he said. Nearby, his wife Linda O’Neill was manning several booths displaying her silver and polished rock and gemstone jewelry. On Saturday, thousands of people examined her inventory which has expanded substantially in the past several years.
“We’re doing great this year,” she said.
Nearby, Sierra Jacques, 14, of Lewis NY stood curbside wearing a new zombie T-shirt she bought at a booth. Her family has been attending the World’s Largest sale for 17 years. Sierra and her sister Melissa, 12 and brother Ryan, 12, have been brought to the sale every year since they were born. Sierra’s most enduring memory, was the 2009 sale when they walked a mile through town to buy five hermit crabs as pets, she said.
“It was a long walk through this town,” she said.
This used truck is all yours for only $80,000
At the World’s largest Garage Sale on Oct. 5, people bought everything imaginable from dollar-store items to prized one-of-a kind antiques. Around town, furniture and appliances were on sale as well as household goods.
Perhaps the highest-ticket item for sale at the event was a fire engine, priced at $80,000. Parked in the Warrensburg firehall, it bore a pink sign reading “For Sale By Owner.”
A 1993 pumper-tanker with only 12,925 miles on the odometer, firefighter Don Bagwell showed the massive fire truck to several interested buyers.
“It’s solid, fully equipped and in excellent condition,” Bagwell said. “One firefighter from Ontario who stopped by today is real interested in it for his fire company.”
At the Warrensburg firehall, firefighters were busy selling food — and parking cars in their yard. The fire engine bays had tables set up for sit-down meals, quite popular with garage sale shoppers who were on their feet all morning. The Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co. sold breakfasts, as well as hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. At times, several long lines formed for their grilled food.
Stopping by at the firehall for a chat were Stephanie and Trevor Paton, both active firefighters in their hometown of Woodstock, NY. They’ve been attending Warrensburg’s annual community sale for a half-dozen years because of the fun and bargains, Stephanie Paton said.
“This is a great family-friendly event that must be good for the local economy,” she said, looking at the crowd on the streets. The couple bought a woodstove for their camp at Raquette Lake and a table and chairs for their children’s college apartment. Both were quite inexpensive, Trevor Paton said.
“The really good deals are in the back streets,” he said.
Fast-food price war on Elm Street
Not far up Elm St., another impromptu fast-food operation was undercutting the firefighters — $2 per burger rather than $3 at the firehall. Two college students stood curbside holding large handwritten signs, advertising “Bob’s Burgers,” urging people to support Bob’s college educational pursuits at SUNY Adirondack. Bob, a culinary arts student and business major, was grilling up hamburgers. Four of his friends, also from ACC, were helping out.
Charmaine Foss of Lake George, Mary Anderson of Chestertown, Mace McCann of Lake George, Edmund DiPietro of Warrensburg and Jake Dunphy of Queensbury, most of them business students, were assisting.
Foss, a Marketing major, explained their strategy. “We’re the cheapest in town,” she said. Bob, however, said the group’s demeanor was prompting the sales. He said that some people left very generous tips because they truly wanted to help him pay college expenses.
“They like our charisma and smiles,” he said, grinning.
While Elm St. was crowded Saturday, Main St. was crammed. Sidewalks along Rte. 9 hosted people shoulder-to-shoulder.
Stewart’s convenience store was busy. They had a dozen bales of hay set out in their parking lot near their entry door so weary shoppers could have a seat. Every bale was occupied mid-day. Inside their store, it was wall-to-wall people, and extra help including managers were busy scooping ice cream and ringing up sales.
Melissa Bliss of northern Warrensburg waited for an unoccupied bale. She’d walked through downtown carrying a set of antique 1920s skis she bought. Her partner was off picking up three vintage wooden sleds they’d bought for Bliss’ mother, Linda Montello of Corinth, to paint folk art on them. For $12, each, they couldn’t be passed up, Bliss said. Megan Bliss, 10, said she was going to paint one of them with winter scenes.
Other stores were busy too. At Subway, a line of people extended from the counter, out the front door. On the Saturday during last year’s garage sale — with lower attendance than in 2013 — the store had its busiest day ever.
Calling it a day late Saturday were Bill and Charlotte Jones of Glens Falls, walking towards their car to leave town after some successful shopping. Bill Jones was carrying two large vintage beer signs to hang on the outside of a shed at his camp in Raquette Lake, he said.
“Three people have stopped me and offered to buy them off me,” he said.
Charlotte was hauling a bag full of items including collectible glass, clothing and an alarm clock. A purple stuffed monkey was peeking out of the top of her bag.
For three years, Charlotte has been battling with her Raquette Lake neighbor Clay Sheldon — he’s been sticking plastic pink flamingos in her lawn, and she’s retaliated by hanging purple monkeys from the tree in his front yard, she said.
“It’s been a running joke,” she said, noting she was thrilled with finding the stuffed monkey for a low price.
Traffic snarls were historic, tons of trash left behind
Monday, Gary Ross reported that Saturday had been the busiest garage sale day in the town’s history.
“They came in swarms,” she said, noting that the traffic was more congested than he had seen it during the 20 years that he and his crews have cleaned up after the sale.
“It was just unbelievable,” he added.
Ross and his crew hauled away 45 dump-truck loads of refuse from the sale over the weekend. Saturday, Ross had to make several 7-mile detours so he could get back into town after taking trips to the landfill. He reported that to move 50 yards down Main Street mid-afternoon Saturday, it took at least 20 minutes.
“You couldn’t go nowhere,” he said. Other sale visitors reported that it took three hours to drive 60 miles through thick traffic from Colonie to Warrensburg. Others said it took 90 minutes to go from Lake George to Warrensburg.
Sunday, it was a different story. The crowds were far thinner, as bargain-hunters were scared off by the forecast of storms. Some shoppers still moseyed through town, but most all left by noon when the rain intensified.
Monday, event organizer Lynn Smith agreed that Saturday was incredibly busy. She praised Ross and his crew for their thorough cleanup while she marvelled about how quiet the Queen Village now seemed.
“Now, it’s like nothing happened,” she said.