The scene is like no other. Early in the morning, people flock to a muddy field or small town in the middle of the Amish countryside. Before long, thousands have gathered into a display of traditional meets modern as straw hats blend with baseball caps, and buggies park next to BMWs. This is the scene at a Lancaster County mud sale, spring auctions that bring thousands together in a mesh of the cultures of the region.
Mud sales, named for the condition of the thawing early spring ground, are major fundraisers for the volunteer fire companies in traditionally Amish communities. Each weekend from late February to early April, various communities hold their annual sales to raise money for the coming year. These mud sales are huge events, sometimes drawing as many as 20,000 people, where everything from hand-stitched quilts (donated by the Amish women's groups) and locally-made crafts to livestock, furniture, produce, baked goods, antiques, housewares, even the kitchen sink are all up for bid. In a sight that may seem like organized chaos to the novice mud sale visitors, six or seven auctions are conducted simultaneously as the Amish and English mill together over the many items bound for the auction block.
Whether bidding or just browsing, no mud sale experience is complete without a sampling of the hearty farm fare offered at every sale. On a chilly morning, warm up with some Pennsylvania Dutch chicken corn soup, a staple at every mud sale, or try a breakfast treat with a Pennsylvania Dutch sticky bun or funnel cake. The sales take on almost a community fair atmosphere. While bargains are to be had, so is the camaraderie, as folks come together to compare their winnings and share in the experience.
With the variety of items and the unique heritage, the Pennsylvania Dutch Country mud sales provide patrons not only with bargains, but a sense of community and tradition. Inviting and never dull, the sales break down the divide between city and country, melting the two together to showcase the beauty of Lancaster County.