Annual 50-mile long garage sale goes on despite COVID-19 concerns

Local News

HOMER, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Many are searching for great bargains, but at what price? That’s the question being raised after an annual garage sale along State Route 90 continued, despite concerns from the health department regarding COVID-19.

The garage sale goes on for miles, 50 miles to be exact, spreading from Montezuma in Cayuga County, to Homer in Cortland County.

Folks opened up their yards and every step along the way, homes and businesses needed to abide by new safety rules.

Those rules include:

  • Masks at all times
  • Social distancing
  • Limiting the size of gatherings at each location

The Cayuga County Health Department released a statement to NewsChannel 9, which voiced their concerns of having large crowds gather for the annual sale.

That statement reads:

The Cayuga County Health Department is not a proponent of the Route 90 Garage sale being held this year.  It has traditionally attracted hundreds of people from various geographic areas who will congregate along the route to inspect and handle various items for sale. 

Given the upsurge in COVID-19 cases in our nation at this time and the lengths we, as a nation, state and county, are taking to attempt to contain and mitigate this virus from continuing to make people ill, it is not advisable to partake in unnecessary, large group gatherings. 

For people who choose to partake in this activity this year, we remind everyone to continue to practice the preventive measures available to us to reduce likelihood of exposure to the virus; keep a safe social distance from people who do not live with you, wear your face cover, wash your hands,  continue to monitor yourself for signs and symptoms of illness and seek health care if you feel ill. 

A reminder that property and business owners are responsible for enforcing compliance of face covering use and safe distancing. 

Cayuga County Health Department Statement

But those new guidelines didn’t seem to be a problem for Carl Hicks, one of the garage sale’s organizers from the First United Methodist Church of Homer. Hicks has been setting his sale up for more than 10 years.

“Everybody is doing their jobs, wearing their masks, doing a good job.”

Carl Hicks, Garage Sale Organizer, First United Methodist Church of Homer

Ever since Hicks became head of the Men’s Club at the First United Methodist Church in Homer, he knew he wanted to make it a priority to serve his community.

“Well I started the sale and the hot dog sale about 10 years ago when I took over the men’s group, and have been part of it ever since,” said Hicks.

Noses and mouths were covered throughout, but there was plenty for the eye to see. Antiques, jewelry, clothing, artwork and more.

“Our money that we raise here from our hot dog stand and our Route 90 sale goes to our budget at our church, and that’s pretty expensive, because our budget runs about $132,000 a year. It’s hard to just take it from an offering plate to pay your bill,” explained Hicks.

For the church, the garage sale serves as a way to help pay the bills, but also a way to pay it forward.

The things we don’t sell, we donate back to the Salvation Army and the thrift shop. They’re getting some free material also to help the needy families that we have, and we have a lot of needy families.

Carl Hicks, Garage Sale Organizer, First United Methodist Church of Homer

After months of isolation and separation, Hicks said this little bit of normalcy is healing.

We have a lot of good fellowship and a lot of good people.

Carl Hicks, Garage Sale Organizer, First United Methodist Church of Homer

Not only was the health department against this garage sale, but local town supervisors also weighed in on the potential dangers of hosting a garage sale of this magnitude.

I was very vocal about this issue on a call with other Town Supervisors and the County Public Health Department. I was dismayed to hear leaders of towns and villages along the route supporting this gathering. While supporting and promoting the sale may be politically expedient, it shows a willful disregard for public health. While our municipality is not on the sale route, our residents go to the same grocery stores, gas stations and other areas frequented by patrons of the sale. Clearly the risk of sale-related transmission will exist well after it is over. It is our responsibility as leaders to put aside our own political views and work to protect our residents. One transmission is too many and we should not forfeit to the idea that spread is now an acceptable part of everyday life. The sale has no organized contact tracing, mask wearing or disinfecting protocols in place. Enforcement is not practical over such a wide geographic area, and the area has identified several new cases this week. I would not recommend attending the sale. There will be time for that once a vaccine is widely available.

Eric Ridley, Supervisor for the Town of Throop

According to New York State’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines for garage sales, the state says browsers must be limited to no more than 50 people, hosts must ensure shoppers maintain social distancing and wear face coverings at all times.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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