By Josh Letner
NEOSHO, Mo. —
Bargain hunters from across the region converged Saturday on Neosho for what local organizers have dubbed “Missouri’s Largest Garage Sale.”
The Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that the town’s population nearly doubles for one day as nearly 8,000 people attend the annual event.
Mayor Richard Davidson said the citywide garage sale is an important event for the community.
“It’s an event that brings thousands of people to Neosho and, at least for one day, it puts Neosho on the map for people from hundreds of miles away,” he said. “Not only does it bring lots of people to town, it brings lots of revenue to local restaurant owners and merchants.”
Steady rains fell until about 10 a.m., keeping many bargains under protective tarps and many bargain hunters under shelter. Those residents whose sales were indoors saw heavy traffic during the rain.
Stacy Brown, 725 Oak Ridge Drive, said many shoppers crowded under her carport to check out her merchandise. She said she has participated in the citywide sale for the past decade.
“I think it’s awesome because you can do one big garage sale and get rid of all of your stuff,” she said.
The chamber estimates that residents staged 300 garage sales across the city. For bargain hunters Bill and Jennifer Harmon, of St. Paul, Kan., the allure of so many sales in a concentrated area was irresistible.
“We’ve got a back seat full already. Now, we’re working on the bed of the truck,” Jennifer Harmon said. “It’s nice because you don’t have to know where you’re going. You just follow the traffic and follow the signs.”
Some visitors have turned the sale into a form of competition. Members of a group called “The Sisters” compete against each other to see who can purchase the tackiest item. The winner takes home a traveling trophy consisting of a stuffed elderly doll head in a jar. One of them, Jerri Dyer, of Butterfield, said her husband is rooting against her this year.
“It freaks him out every time he sees it,” she said. “He’s already called me asking what I’ve found.”
The group’s members come from as far away as St. Louis and as near as Baxter Springs, Kan. Dyer said the best thing she has ever purchased at the sale is a human-sized inflatable hamster ball.
“My grandkids just loved it,” she said.
David Ruth, owner of Sonic Drive-In, said the event is not just important for those holding sales. He said the entire community benefits from the one-day influx of people.
“Since we don’t have the fall festival anymore, it probably is the biggest event for Neosho,” he said. “It brings lots of people to town and they don’t just go to garage sales. They all eat. So, all of the restaurants are busy and they go to convenience stores, and even some of the retailers get in on the action.”
Davidson said that for 24 years, the annual citywide sale serves as the kickoff to the spring and summer event season.
“It’s one of the bigger events that the chamber sponsors,” he said. “While they put events on throughout the year, this is really the kickoff to the event season; they’ll be following that up with car shows and events down on the square, but this gets all that started.”