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Shop Op: Lancaster County's March Sales

By Dave Sturm
The Washington Post
Sunday, February 15, 1998; Page E04

You could put in bids on some Amish quilts, eat chicken corn soup served up by women in big aprons and buy a jar of fresh Leacock Manor horseradish (slogan: "Pep like a horse"). Flavorsome Americana is the draw at the spring Mud Sales of Lancaster County, Pa., and they represent some of the year's best chances to tromp around amid Amish culture and collectibles.

These events are the annual fund-raising auctions held by the county's volunteer fire companies. Most are small affairs limited to things like lumber and livestock, but March will see the staging of the two biggest Mud Sales, which together draw about 20,000 visitors. The Bart Fire Company and Gordonville Fire Company auctions transform what are normally rural crossroads into all-day, open-air bazaars covering up to 20 acres. The quilts are auctioned inside the fire halls, but the rest -- mules, furniture, guns, antiques, buggies, crafts, produce, even kitchen sinks -- is sold outdoors under tents, off the back of trucks, from portable tables or just lying on a tarp. The nickname "mud sales" is apt, and rubber boots are de rigueur. Only an all-out blizzard will force cancellation.

This is the heart of Amish country, and the sales are social events for the plain people who live there. The sales are the only significant events where Amish and "English" (as Amish call the non-Amish) hobnob en masse.

The Bart Fire Company's sale is March 7, featuring about 400 handmade quilts that can go for $200 to $600 each under the auctioneer's hammer. MasterCard and Visa are accepted this year, although a 3 percent credit card charge is levied. No out-of-state checks are accepted. The Bart sale is located in the village of Georgetown on Route 896, about six miles southeast of Strasburg.

The Gordonville Fire Company sale, the county's biggest, is March 14 and will offer about 600 quilts. This sale accepts MasterCard and Visa without an extra charge and will take an out-of-state check if accompanied by an approved letter of credit. Items for sale will be previewed from 6 to 9 p.m. the day before the sale, and visitors can register for the auction then. The site is the village of Gordonville on Old Leacock Road, which stretches north-to-south from Paradise on Route 30 to Intercourse on Route 340.

Both sales start at 8:30 a.m. This year there will be free shuttle buses from marked parking lots on Route 896 for the Bart sale and Routes 30 and 340 for the Gordonville sale. There is no shortage of motels in eastern Lancaster County. Questions about accommodations can be put to the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau at 717-299-8901. The bureau is on the Web at

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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