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Think safety first at this year’s U.S. 127 Yard Sale

It’s a tradition each year through the state of Kentucky and in Boyle County.

The 127 Yard Sale, the World’s Longest Yard Sale, began on Thursday although many vendors began setting up along the highway several days before.

Stretching nearly 700 miles from Alabama to Michigan, the annual yard sale passes through Boyle County, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some local health officials have concerns about the virus potentially spreading if shoppers and vendors avoid taking precautions.

“I think the challenge for all of us counties along Highway 127 is just getting people to understand that six-feet distance, masking is needed, and hand sanitizer or hand washing are the keys,” Boyle County Health Department Director Brent Blevins said.

Blevins said the health department’s environmental staff have and will continue to inspect any vendors selling food along the route, which is a common practice during the event. Upon those inspections, the environmentalists are reminding vendors about the guidelines and requirements.

“We do this every year regardless,” Blevins said. “We inspect the ones we know of in our county that are set up and educate them. This year, obviously, there are more guidelines in place with the masking and all that.”

The event brings in shoppers from multiple states, but Blevins said that isn’t as significant of a concern as people not following the three keys of distancing, masks, and handwashing/sanitizing.

“The way it looks to me right now, the virus is so widespread,” Blevins said. “I know there are some states that have higher positivity rates than we do, but it’s everywhere and every state has it. I don’t have as much of a concern for that as concern for people to generally remember those three rules. That’s more of a concern to me and the piece that probably concerns me the most.”

The 127 Yard Sale looks slightly different in Boyle County this year though. The city of Danville will not be renting out spaces at the Boyle County Fairgrounds as has been the case in the past.

Joyce Collins with the city engineer’s office said she’d received a lot of calls over the past few weeks from vendors wanting to set up at the fairgrounds. However, the city announced in early June that no space would be leased during the annual event. And she wasn’t able to refer them to any other places to set up, she said.

Even though the city lost out on roughly $13,000 from rentals, it really never made any money on the venture because Danville also had to provide city workers for security and trash pickup.

The Boyle County Fairgrounds is listed as a major vendor stop on the event’s website, which shows the fairgrounds as usually hosting approximately 100 vendors.

Blevins said it could be possible that less people will stop in Boyle County with that change, although there are many vendors located in Boyle County.

“That will probably help Boyle County,” Blevins said.

But not everyone who typically participates in the yard sale will be setting up this year due to concerns about COVID-19.

Betty Moffett, owner of The Style Shop which sits right off of U.S. 127 said this year she’s closing her store on Saturday during the weekend of the yard sale.

Traditionally, Saturday has been busy with people visiting her shop who are traveling up and down the highway, she said. And lots of them are from surrounding states which are having high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, such as Tennessee, Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio.

This year, Moffett and her husband decided to close on Saturday.

“I’m staying safe. I’ll stay at home.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, shoppers from out of state were already rolling into Boyle County, and two of them were just getting started on a long journey. Larry Ferrell said he and his wife live in Celina, Tennessee, and they started their trip Wednesday morning, with plans to shop all along the way until they reach Michigan.

“We do this every year. Last year we went south, so this year, we’re going north,” Ferrell said. “We’re staying here tonight, and then we’ll get up in the morning and take off again. We left home this morning, and we’ve spent $700 or $800 already. I buy guns and she collects antiques. We’re retired, so we just get out and do what we want.”

One other aspect of the 127 Yard Sale is that it primarily involves cash transactions. While some vendors accept credit/debit cards, the majority of transactions made between vendors and customers are with cash.

The United States Centers for Disease Control is advising people to use touchless pay options when available, but if not, use hand sanitizer immediately after when touching an object that is frequently handled.

Blevins said the initial guidelines on COVID-19 had a heavy focus on high-touch objects such as paper currency so the possibility of transmission through handling cash from multiple people exists.

Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins encouraged shoppers and vendors to have plenty of hand sanitizer readily available. He said a lot of people will be from out of state and could be coming from places that have spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Hopefully, everyone won’t be picking up and setting down items very often, unless they’re purchasing it, Robbins said. And if you do pick up something and set it back down, “use hand sanitizer immediately.”

Robbins also mentioned the changes in traffic that come with the yard sales.

“It’s always a tough traffic weekend,” when the U.S. 127 Yard Sale takes place.

Even though vendors weren’t allowed to set up at the Boyle fairgrounds this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, there will probably still be heavy traffic through the area for the next few days.

Some people will avoid the annual 600-mile yard sale because of fears of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus. Others “will be looking for reasons to get out of the house,” Robbins said. “It’s impossible to predict how busy the weekend will be.”

No matter where on U.S. 127 bargain hunters and collectors are stopping, they need to be aware of other vehicles. Many drivers will be unfamiliar with the area, and sometimes will turn from the wrong lane, he said.

It’s also a good idea to stay several yards behind the vehicle traveling in front of you, Robbins said, because you never know if they’re going to suddenly stop or even make a U-turn.

He also reminded drivers that parking is not allowed in the emergency lanes on the side of the highway. “These aren’t parking places.”

And because people tend to pull out into traffic, even if they have an obstructed view because of a box truck or trailer parked next to them, he said drivers need to be patient. “The main thing is just to be patient,” Robbins said.

The 127 Yard Sale officially goes through Sunday.

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