By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Most 5-year-olds should have learned to walk by now, but the Route 11 Yard Crawl has done well enough to keep going as it does.
The event, sponsored by the Shenandoah County Chamber Advisory Group, is entering its fifth year, and will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. Residents, churches, civic organizations and businesses from Stephens City to New Market will set up along U.S. 11 to sell whatever they have available. There is no formal end time.
"There always seems to be something for everyone," county Tourism Director Susie Hill said. "It's an opportunity every year for Shenandoah County to clean house."
There are no numbers on how many people pass through during the yard crawl, or how much money is made. But Hill said thousands of people, some from other states, visit, and the anecdotal information on sales is enough to prove that the yard crawl is an overwhelming success.
For example, she said the Woodstock Cafe and Shoppes reports its best day during the yard crawl; a church in Toms Brook, which does not have a chamber of commerce to help plan for the event, made $1,500 from hot dogs last year; and one store made more than $300 from selling 25-cent items.
The event has grown to the point where hotels are benefiting, too, as vendors are staying the night before to set up the next day, Hill said.
At the same time, because of the event's growing popularity, public safety has become a bigger issue through the years. Local law enforcement and safety officials met recently to review plans for the day, a press release states.
Some highlights include the Shenandoah County Landfill staying open until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, local police departments having additional personnel on duty and radio stations being asked to publicize the yard crawl.
Also, pedestrians should use "extreme" caution when crossing U.S. 11, the release states, and residents who do not have businesses on U.S. 11 or who are not participating in the yard crawl should use alternative routes if they need to travel.
"We're certainly not telling people to stay off 11," Hill said. "We're just recommending an alternate route. There will be congestion."
To top off the hype for this year's event, she likes marketing it as a "yard crawl sandwich" because the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival will have concerts Friday and Saturday nights.
As large as the yard crawl is, the tourism office still realizes there is room to improve -- an event in Hillsville, north of Fancy Gap, remains the biggest yard sale event in the state. But, Hill said, there is evidence that the rankings could one day change.
"They are getting calls about us," she said.