It’s the “world’s largest” rummage sale and an auction, but here it’s just known as Rotary. People donate, volunteer (more than 1,500), and – shop! Last year Bainbridge Island’s Rotary Auction raised over $625,000 for community grants and projects, scholarships, and international humanitarian work.
Bargain hunters come from around the Northwest and Canada, and the logistics of organizing people, parking, items for sale, and ensuring little waste boggles the mind.
The whole thing could be chaos. But somehow, in the midst of this evidence of wretched American excess – it’s really fun. Last year I helped a friend and volunteered in the linens department, but didn’t attend the sale.
This year we ventured into the fray – but not to do the running start at 8 a.m.! A mob of shoppers crowd together for a mass start (having previewed goods on Friday night), then, at a signal, dash for their targets. By 10:30 when we arrived, the very best “good stuff” was gone – but plenty remained, and we accomplished our objectives – life vests for our Bainbridge friends’ grandchildren (three for four dollars), new games and puzzles (bags stuffed for ten dollars), and two bowls and a plate from the “breakable kitchen ware” section.
As we made our way back to the shuttle bus stop, I realized the abundance on offer – huge things like oversized televisions, barbeques, kayaks, and dingys, even cars and trucks. Small treasures of glass or pottery. Massive stacks of linens, toys of all stripes, children’s clothes, grown up clothes, lawn mowers, garden tools, outdoor furniture, Christmas decorations, vacuum sweepers, luggage, building equipment, ski equipment, windows, doors, bikes, antlers, vinyl, computers, and boom boxes. Knitting supplies have a tent apart. The quantity is hard to convey – a whole middle school, classrooms, gymnasium, and playing field chockablock with discarded possessions awaiting new life.
We watched one family enthusiastically load into the back of a canopied truck, a huge storage container for a dock (apparently filled with other purchases), a child’s handmade wooden kitchen, a small table, a large wooden chair, a big two-burner camp stove, a shower surround (!), then add leftovers to the extended cab – along with their three-year old, the Bob stroller, themselves, and father-in law.
Thankful to avoid the road as lines of pickups queued to pick up (we watched a man trudging amongst them carrying a life-sized deer), we crowded into seats on the shuttle bus with bags on our laps. A woman perched a big suitcase full of clothes and books next to me – and held on tight from behind. (Every year her daughter reads the mountain of books purchased for a few dollars). Other passengers wrestled purchases down the narrow aisle – a bed frame, a huge dog carrier, a thick pottery crock pot, two long-poled weeders, a large framed mirror – everyone jolly about their treasures.
My best find was a little hand-painted “California Provencial” Poppytrail plate, made by Metlox Pottery in the ‘50s. One rooster crows in the middle of the plate – here he’s multiplied into a pattern!