A s the days begin to lengthen and the kiss of spring sets hearts aflutter, barn sale season opens up across Middle Tennessee. Both heaven and haven for lovers of all things vintage, handcrafted and repurposed, these inspired events celebrate the work of makers and the style of southern days gone by.
The term ‘barn sale’ originated when people simply opened up their barns to creative friends who sold their handmade, homegrown or antique items to locals. Today, though the term may be used loosely, barn sales have become sought-after events, each with its own style and spirit. Christy Donoho of the Strawberry Patch incited the Middle Tennessee barn sale trend in 2009 after visiting similar events in Ohio. This gave her a longing to host a sale of her own. After holding her first barn sale in her back yard, the event quickly grew and moved to a new location: her family’s farm in Hartsville, Tennessee. Now she hosts two barn sales each year, and she has inspired and offered advice to many other area barn sale coordinators.
A barn sale is an outdoor shopping event like no other—a marketplace full of lovely visual displays. Every barn sale is different, but all feature a plethora of wares, beautifully presented in a rustic, friendly atmosphere. Artisans, crafters, collectors and other ‘makers’ assemble their eye-catching booths with artistic flair. Christy explains that for the Strawberry Patch sales, “I look for vendors who put their heart and soul into their space. I look for one-of-a-kind, pick-of-the-litter artisans, opting for quality over quantity.”
Often held on working family farms or estates, these events have given new purpose to many old and forgotten barns. Surrounded by pastoral landscapes, barn sales are actually spectacular events in their own right—featuring live music, local food vendors and farm-fresh produce. “These are family events, with each pushing the next to grow and evolve,” says Tilina Hill of Murfreesboro’s An Artisan Affair. She affirms, “Whether it’s food, music or nostalgia, you’re sure to have a great time.” Barbara Gooch of becca Anne Barn Sale adds, “A simpler time of community, fellowship and country with good friends and shopping is the mix that makes barn sales special.”
Items for sale can include everything from antiques, vintage décor, furniture, handmade soaps, original or upcycled clothing, seasonal items, pottery, jewelry and anything in between. Many barn sales are juried events requiring artisans to be selected to have a booth, ensuring the quality and variety of items offered. “This provides a unique shopping experience filled with rare, hard-to-find, eclectic treasures,” explain Rachel Davis and Megan Dodson, the sisters who organize Sweet Ila Mae’s (named to honor their great grandmother). Rachel and Megan hold their annual barn sales dear to their hearts. “We love being able to support and feature local artisans, craftsmen and farmers. We pride ourselves on celebrating their talents and featuring local vendors.”
Each barn sale typically runs over a weekend, offering shopping for three days in which Friday features “first picks” first-choice shopping, special deals from vendors and a pickin’ party, if you’re lucky! Usually a small entry fee is collected—sometimes a portion of this fee benefits a local cause or charity. “We love for people to come out to the farm to enjoy the friendly atmosphere. I want you to find that special treasure, have great food and enjoy the music and laughter with friends,” muses Shirley Thomas of the Hayloft at Port Royal. “Then you can shop some more.”
When planning your barn sale visit, here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Wear comfortable, functional shoes—preferably boots. Since these events are held outdoors in barns, floors will likely be grass, hay or dirt—and may be muddy.
• Bring cash—some vendors will not have card readers.
• Strollers and wagons are best left at home, as pathways can be narrow and will get crowded. For this reason, bringing pets is also not advised.
• A truck or SUV is useful, in case you find a large piece of furniture or other item you can’t live without.
Tilina Hill shares some barn sale wisdom: “The secret here is: if you see it and you like it, you better get it! If you think too long, someone else will snatch it up.”
Starting in late March, barn sales are plentiful weekend after spring weekend. The season takes a break in the summer; then it will rise again in the fall with another string of glorious barn sale weekends.
Here is a list of spring barn sales happening around Middle Tennessee: