July 22, 2011 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
What started out as a way to build sales for one woman’s antique business has morphed into an annual 160 mile yard sale that stretches along Hwy. 64 in Arkansas from Fort Smith to Beebe.
Now in its twelfth year, “Bargains Galore on 64” will lure more than 25,000 shoppers from around the state and across the country Aug. 11-13 on a three day quest to find treasure among thousands of yard sales along 160 miles.
“People come from all over to walk and shop. It’s crazy,” said Cassidy Brown of the Morrilton Chamber of Commerce who said she has shopped the sale every year.
During the sale, parking lots, parks, town squares are all transformed into flea markets. Residents along the highway also set up tables in their front yards along the highway and let others do the same. Shoppers weave in and out, finding parking where they can to peruse everything from antiques and collectibles, to clothing and furniture.
“People think there’s a lot of junk, but there’s not,” said Linda Millsap, Executive Director for the Ozark Chamber of Commerce who scored a pair of antique lamps last year for $20. “There are some really neat things out there.”
The sale is actually a borrowed idea. Linda Hiles of Ozark said she traveled one hot August to the 127 Corridor Sale, which at 675 miles long, bills itself as the world’s largest yard sale. Hiles had made the trek in hopes of unearthing some bargains that she could resell in her antique store in Altus.
Bargains Galore on 64 by the Numbers
- 3 days, Aug. 11-13
- Hwy. 64
- 160 miles, from Fort Smith to Beebe
- 25,000+ shoppers
- 24 participating cities
- 1-888-568-3552 for booth or other info
“Geez, I don’t understand why we couldn’t do this in Arkansas,” was Hiles thought as she saw tens of thousands of people shopping in a month that she calls “dead” in the antique business.
When Hiles returned to Arkansas, she met with the Altus Chamber of Commerce and got the green light to organize the first Bargains Galore on 64. From there, she spoke to every Chamber of Commerce and Advertising and Promotion group she could, trying to garner financial support that would promote the event.
“The first year was really hard. Most of the people who set up a flea market or yard sale didn’t understand how it worked. They weren’t sure who to call,” recalled Hiles.
Like any event, the first year is always the hardest. Hiles had to move from the mindset of antiques owner to event organizer and says she has since sold her antiques store.
Hiles said she’s a little worried this summer’s heat may keep attendance numbers down. But Millsap has a different take on the heat.
“It’s hot, but there are such good bargains, I think it pulls people out anyway,” she said. “If it’s later in the day, people will let things go if they’re ready to go.”
Brown agrees and says the year she had a sale, she put a “free” sign on everything when she was ready to wrap up her sale. As a veteran Bargains Galore on 64 shopper, Brown says it’s realistic to cover 20-30 miles in a day and says shoppers should not be shy about negotiating.
Parking can be a little crazy to negotiate, but Hiles says many of the flea markets have parking. One of the best tips may be in bringing along a wheeled shopping cart so you don’t have to return to your car as often.
Hiles says the sale’s midpoint is Russellville. She says Hwy 64 is an ideal place for the sale because the highway parallels I-40, making it easy for people to get on and off to access motels, campgrounds, and restaurants.
There are many restaurants along Hwy. 64 for shoppers to choose from as well as concession trailers along the way.
Shannon Burns, who owns the Owl’s Roost Café on Hwy. 64 in Altus, says her town sees “a lot of traffic, a lot of hot people.” She says enjoys speaking to people who travel from all over the country to find a bargain. Burns says she doesn’t see a huge uptick in her business, but will be serving up ice cream, shakes and says she has a really good catfish dinner.
Most anyone is free to put up a booth and it’s not too late to get space, says Hiles.
“It’s a great opportunity for church groups or civic groups or whoever wants to raise money.”
She said there are no booth fees, but some of the flea markets that offer parking, restrooms and electricity will charge a nominal fee in the neighborhood of $10 per day. Hiles said each town operates their sales a little differently and she encourages those interested in booth space to contact the town’s Chamber of Commerce or her directly at 1-888-568-3552. Some of the cities include Alma, Altus, Atkins, Beebe, Conway, Fort Smith, Morrilton, Ozark, Russellville, Van Buren and Vilonia. If you plan to erect a booth along the highway, Hiles strongly encourages that permission be sought from the landowner or homeowner.