When Huskins brought the idea to the Abraham Lincoln
Tourism Bureau of Lincoln and Logan County in 2007, he described it as "37
Miles of Smiles" and outlined how the garage sales would follow
the Route 66 trail through Logan County, including the communities of
Atlanta, Lawndale, Lincoln, Broadwell and Elkhart.
He proposed that the proceeds gathered from the event could go to
the then newly formed Route 66 Heritage Foundation, to support the
foundation's efforts to preserve Route 66 attractions in Logan
The foundation and Huskins decided on a few sanctioned vendor booth
locations, established vendor space fees and wrote guidelines for
Rules for food booths included strict adherence to local
department rules for food handling, and vendors had to ensure that
all their items for sale were legal under applicable federal and
state laws and local ordinances. The planners also decided that they
would strictly prohibit the sale of guns at any of the locations.
That first year, the participation was even better than they had
hoped for, and since that time each year has exceeded the one
Talking Friday afternoon at Postville Park, Huskins said
that this was the biggest year yet and he couldn't be happier even
though it is a lot of work.
Huskins said there is a lot of planning going on throughout the
year, but in the last 72 to 48 hours before the sales start, there is
a real push to get everything done in time.
He said this year's guidebook, which is a whopping 30 pages,
is one of the best that has ever been put out. He commented on one
major improvement, saying that last year some had expressed
dissatisfaction with the maps that were provided for the sale.
"This year, Misty (Bell, assistant to Geoff Ladd, the tourism
director) did the maps. It was a lot of work, but they are really
good," Huskins commented.
In the guidebook there are pages listing the sales in each town from
McLean to Williamsville, with accompanying maps of the town and pin
points on the address of each sale in that community.
The books are easy to read and the maps are clear and easy to
While Huskins may have been the man behind the idea, he is quick to
say that keeping the annual event going is a group effort. The
planning is done by Ladd, Bell and Huskins, and volunteers are needed
throughout the event to keep it running smoothly.
As was the original desire, the funds raised from the garage sale
entry fees go to Route 66 preservation projects. For the last
three years the lion's share of that money has gone to support the
restoration of The Mill on 66.
Built in 1929 by Paul Coddington, the roadside sandwich stand was
originally called the Blue Mill. The Blue Mill featured a Dutch
windmill shape and waitresses dressed in blue and white uniforms
In 1945 the business was purchased by Albert and Blossom Huffman.
The Huffmans added a barroom and dance hall to the building and
celebrated much success as well as notoriety.
In addition to local colorful characters like Coonhound Johnny, the
establishment was known to be a favorite visiting spot for the
notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone and many of his cohorts.
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The Huffmans introduced the fried schnitzel to the menu at The
Mill, and today that same recipe is used by the Huffmans' grandson at
his restaurant on Lincoln's downtown square.
The Mill closed in 1996 and for the next few years was the topic of
much discussion as to what to do with the old building. As it stood
going to ruin, there was much debate on whether or not the building
should be condemned and demolished.
In 2006, the old Mill got a second chance at life when at the
pleading of Ernie Edwards, the owner of the Pig Hip Restaurant
Museum in Broadwell, Ladd agreed to take on the restoration project.
Since that time, a great deal has been accomplished at
The Mill, but
there is still much to do. Fundraisers such as the Route 66 Garage
Sale and donations from other organizations and individuals -- such
as John and Lenora Weiss of the Route 66 Association of Illinois, who
brought a group of association volunteers to Lincoln to build the
new sails on the front of building, and Larry Van Bibber, who gave
$15,000 to the restoration -- enable Ladd and a group of hardworking
volunteers to keep plugging away at the work.
In 2009 the foundation's efforts to save The Mill on 66 were
rewarded when the local icon was initiated into the Route 66 Hall of
Though it has been
only four years, it can easily be said that Huskins'
dreams have come to fruition. The Route 66 Garage Sale this year
is the biggest ever, extending beyond county lines, and while raising money for
the Route 66 Foundation has become a much loved annual
tradition by most all of Logan County.
[By NILA SMITH]