Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do they REALLY sell mud?

Well… not exactly. But it’s a long standing tradition in Lancaster County to have mud sales and we guarantee that you haven’t seen anything quite like it. Known as auctions everywhere else, in Lancaster they are simply called “sales”. Throughout the months of February and March, volunteer fire departments from Gap to Intercourse hold these sales as their biggest fund-raisers of the year.

These are no small affairs, mud sales start as early as 7 a.m. and it takes the better part of the day - with three auctioneers - to get through the inventory of handmade quilts, antiques, Amish-made wagons, jars of jams, wooden crafts, tools, and farm equipment. And sometimes even horses and pigs and cows…..oh my! You just never know what you will find.

While most of the business takes place outside (hence the name for the sale), hundreds of colorful quilts hang from the rafters inside the fire halls. You can tell they’ve done this before: Women volunteers can secure a quilt on clothes pins and hoist it high above the crowd in a flash – and the bidding is just as fast. Other fire halls use a bed to illustrate how the quilts will look when made up – no ordinary bed, but one tilted to swivel for the audience to see. At really big sales, two or three beds will be on display.

Whether it’s the cadence of the auctioneer, the smell of the hay, the slide of the mud underneath, or the steam rising from your hot chocolate outside, there’s nothing like the “thrill of the hunt” for something special.

And then there’s the food – hearty Lancaster County fare. Homebaked sweets line the tables with chicken corn soup, pork bar-b-que, hot dogs and sauerkraut, sticky buns and whoopee pies. (All your New Year’s resolutions may be abandoned in one lunch.)

The locals really turn out for mud sales – since most of the fire departments are staffed by at least some plain folks, you’ll see lots of Amish kids pulling each other in wagons and riding horses behind the barn, while their parents catch up on local news and help dish out food or make purchases.

Warm up at The Artist’s Inn when you return – either in front of the fireplaces or in one of our whirlpool tubs. We’ll even supply directions to the find the sales and some plastic bags for those boots…do bring yours, lest you want to stand out as one of those first-timers….

For a list of mud sales, see our Things to Do page.

Here's a picture from one of the sales last year - a few pieces of farm equipment, buggies, mud....and a whole lot of atmosphere. Nowhere but Lancaster County.

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