You won’t often see traffic jams in Pierce County, but every first Saturday in October at the corner of Georgia Highway 121 and West Horseshoe Road — before the sun has even come up — a strange phenomenon occurs.

Dozens of trucks with trailers, ATVs, golf carts, food trucks and more than 300 yard sale vendors head up the normally sleepy 15 miles of rural road between 121 and Mershon Road for the Annual Horseshoe Road Yard Sale.

“This thing has taken on a life of its own, I tell ya,” event co-organizer Austin Moore said Oct. 2 from the porch of his parents’ home at 3200 Country Lane in the Walkerville community.

Founded in 2002 by three community-minded ladies who are no longer with us — Charlotte Smith, Sherri Dowling and Joyce Dixon — the event has steadily grown over the last 19 years from just a smattering of residential yard sales to now dozens of professional traveling vendors in the mad mix.

Vendors and shoppers came from as close as their own front door to as far away as Savannah, Brunswick, Millwood, Jesup and even Tallahassee, Fla.

“It’s not supposed to start until 8 a.m., but we get people out shopping with flashlights at 7 in the morning,” Becky Griffin said standing in the cool shade of the jam-packed carport on the 10-acre farm property owned by her parents Judy and Danny Howell.  

As she looked out upon the more than 35 vendors spread out between the corn fields and West Horseshoe Road at Crawford Road, she remembered how much her father loved this yearly event before passing away in May.

“He was always very involved in all of this,” she said as she began to get choked up. “He was always busy as a bee on days like this. So many people were in his yard and he’d be helping everybody. He would usually sell pumpkins, but this year mom planted his pumpkins and I don’t think they made it because there was too much rain.”

Griffin pointed out the memorial set up for her dad on the other side of the food table where her mom was selling homemade Amish friendship bread and cream cheese squares.

Judy Howell encouraged passersby to take the special bookmarks bearing one of her late husband’s favorite prayers: “Billy Graham’s Prayer for America 2016.”

“Take more than one and hand them out,” Judy said as she stood next to a large portrait photograph of Danny, a longtime machinist with CSX Railroad.

She said she definitely feels Danny is still with them on that day he loved so much, hanging out around the tall pink morning glory bushes along the white picket fence.

“There’s a lot of railroad guys coming by just to see him and talk to him here today,” she said as her eyes welled with tears.

Sitting under the shade of the large Bradford pear tree on a bench built by one of Griffin’s uncles, Baxley residents Carolyn Weaver and her son Randy enjoyed grilled sausages.

They said they’ve been coming to the yard sale every since it started and were sure to arrive by 8 a.m. to get the best deals.

“I try to be good and not buy everything I see and want,” Carolyn said. “My best bargain was the two hummingbird pictures I got for $3 a piece. On the back were the original price tags of $29.99 and $22.99.”

Next to a large palm tree behind one of the first homes you come to on the Horseshoe Road Yard Sale journey, longtime Patterson residents James and Tasha Lightsey were wheelin’ and dealin’ to unload years of accumulated clothing and furniture as they prepare to build a new home near their current Otter Creek residence.

Although they’d had a $10 spot at the sale once before years ago, they said business is really bustling this time.

“It was super busy earlier,” James said as he sold a lounge chair and ottomon to Blackshear resident Carlos Herrera for $20 just before noon. “We started setting up at about 5 a.m. and our first customer came in at 7 or 7:15. Clothing is our big seller today.”

One of their customers, Nelda Beverly, drove 45 minutes from Millwood.

“I’ve been coming to this since the very beginning,” she said, clutching large hair bows and tiny outfits she found for her granddaughters for only $7 total. “I make my husband mad. He has to come with me. He’s sitting in the truck with the little coffee table I bought this morning.”

Along with traveling vendors hocking everything from fishing rods and work boots to Persian rugs and safety vests, there were more than 30 food vendors selling smoked meats, Cajun goods, pizza, funnel cakes, snow cones, boiled peanuts, hamburgers and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

“That gumbo and shrimp and grits at Nannette’s Kitchen out of Brunswick was not to be missed,” Moore said as he took a break from the Bulldogs game.

Kitchen and her best friend, Deborah Huyck, explained they had built the large white food truck together three years ago out of a Tom’s Potato Chips vehicle.

“I had the vision and Debbie helped with the provision. That’s how I like to say it,” Kitchen said with a laugh. “With a last name like Kitchen, how could I do anything else?”

Kitchen said it was their first time at the event and they will definitely come back next year — although Huyck said they’ll need to plan their entrance strategy differently next time.

“I did not realize we’d be stuck in traffic for hours today getting here,” Huyck said. “That was crazy.”