For the third year, traffic will pick up along Historic U.S. 21 from Wytheville, Virginia, to Harmony — including the route through Alleghany, Surry and Yadkin counties — the last full weekend of July as part of the Take a Break from the Interstate efforts.
The mission of the initiative, founded by Sparta businessman Donald Miles Sr., is “to promote economic development through tourism along Historic U.S. Hwy. 21.”
Two years ago, the initiative kicked off with a three-day road market sale, which has grown to include communities, businesses and individuals from Wytheville to Harmony. This year’s sale is slated for July 29-31.
“The objective was to have a destination for people to travel Highway 21, not just for the three-day sale,” said Miles.
He said the road market sale gives the local communities a chance to get involved and make some money and boost the economy. “We’ve had some say they’ve earned enough to buy their back-to-school clothes.”
Donna Hamn, who works with Miles to coordinate the sale with the communities involved, said last year a girl in Sparta earned hundreds of dollars selling lemonade, and the previous year a boy in Virginia sold lemonade to earn money for his college fund.
Miles said different communities are involved in the sale on different levels. In Sparta the Fairgrounds will be opened with a quilt show and many people set up, and in Wytheville one of the businessmen opens his auction house so others can set up on the route to sell.
“It is a really enjoyable thing for people who travel,” he said, adding he and Hamn travel the route on the road market sale weekend to see how things are going, get pictures and talk to people.
He said the Historic U.S. 21 route includes eight national and state parks along the stretch from Wytheville to Harmony, including the Yadkin River, New River, Stone Mountain State Park, Jefferson National Forest and Grayson Highlands. The route was known as the Lakes to Florida Highway at one point, before traffic detoured to Interstate 77.
“We want to make people aware we have a place to offer,” he said for those who like to travel.
For the road market sale weekend, there will be many yard sales, a lot of buyers on the roads, and Miles expected the restaurants and convenience stores along the route will be overwhelmed with those shopping and driving the historic route along 21.
“It’s been very rewarding from a personal standpoint to see it be successful and get so many compliments on it,” Miles said. “We’ve had very good support from the towns.”
In Elkin, the town council voted earlier in the year to waive the typical permit requirements for the road market weekend.
“It’s just a really fun event and to see so many people out participating. It’s good any time you involve your local people, you achieve success,” said Miles. “We get a lot of out-of-town people come in, too.”
As far as the municipalities involved in the Take a Break from the Interstate initiative, Miles said, “These seven or eight communities involved in this, it’s been such a pleasure to work with them. They are all excited about it. We’ve got tourism people, chamber of commerces, these seven or eight towns are drawn together and collaborate with each other. We have a meeting once a month to organize it.”
In addition to people set up in the towns, Miles said there are a number of individual houses who have sales along the Historic U.S. 21 route.
For more information on Take a Break from the Interstate or the U.S. 21 Road Market, visit takeabreakfromtheinterstate.com or www.21roadmarket.org, or call 336-372-5646.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.