Monday, October 20, 2014 · 5:09 p.m.
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The world's longest yard sale is celebrating 25 years next weekend with 690 miles of sales. (Photo: Contributed)

For the past 25 years, the world's longest yard sale, which started in Fentress County, Tenn., has continued to get longer, attract more vendors and visitors, and inspired an entire television program on HGTV.

Next weekend will be no different. For this year's sale, the route is at an all-time high of 690 miles, from Michigan to Alabama.

Although HGTV producers with “Endless Yard Sale”—an appraisal competition reality show between couples who set out to find the best bargains worth the most money along the route—have selected different stretches of the sale over the years to concentrate the competitors' search, they are returning to Tennessee for this year's show, calling it “the heart of the entire sale.”

“In years past, we have tried all different routes. We've started in the South and went up, and we've started in the North and made our way south as far as we could,” supervising producer Michelle McDonald said.

This year, couples from Ohio, Georgia and Texas will be followed by the network's 30-person crew from Chattanooga to Jamestown, Ky., as they attempt to win challenges along the way and find the diamonds in the rough of yard sale “junk.”

"There is so much great stuff in that area. We've had a lot of success there," McDonald said.

HGTV advice to shoppers
—Don't spend too much time in one place because there is so much.
—Concentrate on the "tent cities" along the route.
—Ask the vendors about the stories behind the items you are interested in.
—Learning the history can sometimes add value but certainly contributes to the object's potential to be a real conversation piece.
—Bring plenty of water and things to eat because you may be in the middle of nowhere and not know where you are headed next.
—Remember to haggle a little with the sellers. Stretch your yard sale dollars further by talking down the prices.

McDonald said the goal is for the shoppers selected for the reality show competition "to experience the endless yard sale to the fullest and to get to know the vendors and get to see the beautiful landscape, finding all that crazy stuff you can't find anywhere else.”

That goal is certainly in line with the event's original purpose, according to Leanne Smith, Fentress County's director of tourism, who said the attention from HGTV is one great example of how the sale has grown into a destination event.

Smith said the event's first planning committee was not so interested in creating a giant yard sale, but rather wanted for people to get off the highways and into the small towns on the side roads.

“It originated here, and it was from Chattanooga to Covington, Ky., in 1987,” Smith said.

Each year, Smith said she talks with people from all over the country who are planning their vacations around the sale.

“That always surprises me too. Most people go to the mountains or the beach. This way, you get to see so much of America doing [the sale route], so it does make perfect sense. That was the original concept for the event,” she said.

Some shoppers are annual attendees, according to Smith, who commit to cover a different leg of the world's longest yard sale each year.

With the popularity of programs like “Endless Yard Sale” and the trend to upcycle and repurpose found objects, as well as an increased interest in all things “Americana,” Smith said it seems like the sale will only continue to be a success.

“Antiquing has always been a pastime in the South. Now, all of America has caught on,” she said.

The world's longest yard sale takes place next week, Aug. 2-5. The program will air in October.

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