A Day at an Amish Mud Sale

Last Updated on September 25, 2013 by Jody Halsted

I love this guest post from Dana Gschwendtner of Small Earth Travel. Too often we think of travel as grand trips when amazing things happen in our own backyards.

I read a lot of blogs and follow a lot of people on Twitter who travel the globe, and I’m only slightly jealous. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a lot to contribute to the dialog but this weekend I went to Mud Sale in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was an amazing experience. It was an immersion experience right in my own backyard.

Never heard of a mud sale? Neither had I until my mother-in-law sent me a link to a flyer from the Lancaster County Convention and Visitors Bureau with all the dates and locations listed. My mother-in-law is an avid quilter and collector. Even though every Mud Sale is different they all have quilt auctions as part of the day.  Mud Sales are ways for communities to raise money for their local fire departments. They are held in the early spring and the fall, when farmers have some quiet time. As they are usually held when the ground is starting to thaw (and in big fields) they became known as Mud Sales.

Amish, Lancaster, PA
Amish and ‘English’ come together at a Mud Sale


So, what is a Mud Sale? It’s part auction, part flea market, part fair.

There weren’t that many weekends that worked for my mother-in-law to come and visit; March 19 was chosen and my husband was able to take my 2 year old for the day. Lancaster is about an hour from Allentown and the auctions start at 8:30, so we left the house by 6:30 on Auction Day. I say Lancaster, PA but the first sale we went to was in West Earl, PA, which was closer than Lancaster. We got there and parked and registered to bid. Important note: you must register to bid at each auction and you will need your drivers license. At the two auctions we went to you could pay with cash,check (local, in-state only) or credit card.  The Mud Sale in West Earl had a little bit of everything. They had livestock (come very cute pigs and calves), sheds, furniture, quilts, mulch, groceries and antiques. My mother-in-law really wanted to take part in the quilt auction but we found out when we arrived the quilt auction did not begin until 2:00 pm. We weighed our options and decided to head to another Mud Sale and come back for the quilt auction.

Mud Sale near Lancaster, PA
A Mud Sale in Pennsylvania

About fifteen minutes from West Earl there was a Mud Sale in Airville, PA. A SERIOUS Mud Sale. When we got there we had to park and take a shuttle. No big deal because it was quick and easy. We got there, registered to bid and began to explore.

So when I say part flea market it’s sort of misleading. At the Airville Mud Sale there were so many things going on you really had to time your visits to each section. In the main fire hall there was a craft auction going on, with some very lovely handcarved gourds and birdhouses and wooden crafts. It was also where the quilt auction began at 10:00 am. Outside the main fire hall there was a giant field. In one section of the field were big flat truck beds filled with boxes marked as lots. (See how I say part flea market).  There were also three big tents set up. In one tent an auctioneer was auctioning household goods. There were a lot of people in there and I didn’t stay too long. In another tent they were auctioning off handmade furniture. In the third tent there was an antique auction going on (my favorite). Behind the tents there were rows and rows of items being auctioned off. In one section there were windows, doors, sinks and cabinets. In another area there flowers and plants and mulch along with sheds. Even beyond that were buggies and carriages and farm equipment. Big farm equipment.

You’re probably wondering what made this a cultural experience? Well, for starters the auction is a mix of Amish families and people from outside the area. Secondly, if you’ve never heard PA Dutch spoken before here was a chance. Third, I never realized what think accents people from the interior of Pennsylvania had before. I seriously had to listen very closely to understand what they were saying. And finally, the food. Good, Pennsylvania fare. Homemade donuts (hot and fresh)…I seriously look forward to these every time I head into this area. Handmade soft pretzels. Homemade ice cream, frech cut french fries. Chicken dinners, chicken and corn chowder soup (It was freezing and I had a cup of this and it was delicious). Locally made hot dogs, apple dumplings and whoopie pies. Oh my, the whoopie pies. I can only say that it’s local, fresh and delicious. I love eating in Pennsylvania.

Father and Son at a Mud Sale in Pennsylvania
Father and Son at a Mud Sale

But on to the antique auction. I love antiques. My mom taught me young. We used to spend days wandering the antique shops of Maine. Brimfield is an annual trip for us. This was the most fun antique auction I have ever been too. There were a ton of antiques being auctioned here. And they were nice. Very nice. Oak lingerie chests, shaving stands, a Jenny Lind Bed, an old Mobil Gas Pump, beautiful stained glass windows. I can’t list everything but there were a lot of things I would have loved to take home.  I know that it depends on the auction, what people are looking for but the prices at this one could not be beat. The oak furniture was going for around $150. The bed went for $50. The stained glass windows went for $115. I wanted a hand carved oak bed. But I couldn’t decide where I would put it, if it was a queen or how I would get slats made for it. It was love at first sight for that bed and I. I have never bid at an auction before but I did at this one. It took me awhile to get the rhythym of the auctioneer. He was going a mile a minute with a PA Dutch accent. I needed a translator at first, But I caught on. I bid on several items I didn’t win, wanted more and came home with a molded butter press, a chair and a cast iron cornbread stick pan. Love my treasures. I wanted a window but didn’t get it, kicking myself. And I loved the bed but I really didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I ended up spending all day in the antique auction. It was really cold and about 2:30 I was shivering so badly I couldn’t write my name on my check but it was so much fun I didn’t care. My friend Heather and her mom came with us. Heather went home with a beautiful stained glass window and a McCoy Cookie Jar. I can’t wait until next year, I am coming better prepared.

I never got over to the furniture auction (sigh). I saw the pieces coming out of the tent at the end and they were beautiful. Next time I go I’m getting there early so I can scout out the stuff I really want and get there for the auctions. Each Mud Sale prints a program, which lists the auction times on it. You should get one of these so you can track where you need to be when.

So, the only negative thing I can say about spending all day in the antique auction was that I never got to the outdoor furniture auction. When I got home my husband wanted to know about the Adirondack chairs, but since I didn’t get there I didn’t know. But, never fear, I see there is another Mud Sale next weekend, and my mom will be in town. It was so much fun, right in my own backyard but a totally different world.


Photo Credit: Lancaster County Convention and Visitors Bureau  Used with permission

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