Rotary volunteers get set for big auction and sale

Kyle Hanson of Rowan Event Services struggles to tie down a portion of the circus-style tent that
Kyle Hanson of Rowan Event Services struggles to tie down a portion of the circus-style tent that's being raised for this year's Bainbridge Rotary Auction and Rummage Sale.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

The annual Bainbridge Rotary Auction and Rummage Sale returns next week, and it's going to be in tents.

Part of it, at least.

Marit Saltrones, one of the auction organizers, stood in the parking lot of Woodward Middle School Wednesday and watched as a crew from Rowan Event Services sweated in the mid-day sun while raising four tents that would be combined into one big top of bargains.

The massive, white circus-style tents, which will take up a good portion of the parking lot when fully hoisted, will house the fine furniture and vintage items that have been donated to the sale, Saltrones explained.

At last year's auction, there were 340 pieces of antique and fine furniture that were put up for bid, she said.

The parking lot itself will be filled from end to end with other sale items, including hundreds of bikes, toys and items of all sorts. And inside the school, classrooms will be filled with everything from household goods, clothes, sporting equipment and more.

The school's gym is usually half-filled with books.

"It's astounding. We have products from birth to death," she said of the selection.

And then some, Saltrones said, recalling the time someone mistakenly donated a vessel filled with a departed person's ashes.

"So I guess we've even had post-death," she quipped.

The big event usually attracts a crowd of bargain hunters that numbers 5,000 or more, with some people coming from Oregon, California or beyond for the super sale. A review of last year's credit card sales showed 70 percent were from off-island.

Items for sale in the parking lot, and the school, are quickly scooped up on sale day. This year's auction and sale is 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 30.

"More than half is going to disappear by noon," Saltrones said. "And by the end of the following day, there will be nothing left."

A large crowd typically gathers before the start of the sale, and, after the national anthem, look out.

"It's the running of the bulls," she said.

For volunteers, the advice is simple: Get out of the way.

It's not a mad scramble for all, though.

The night before the sale, the Rotary holds a sneak peek showing for those who want to get a glimpse of what's up for sale.

"Friday night, people come and do their strategy," Saltrones said.

Preview attendees get a chance to go over the grounds, and take a look inside the classrooms packed with stuff.

Not everyone comes away with the same strategy, however.

In the past, some shoppers have made a beeline to the luggage section, so they have something to hold their other newfound treasures. Others send speedy kids to camp out on a sofa or sit on a piece of furniture to stake a claim until they can make it through the crowd. And some park their trucks or trailers along Sportsman’s Club Road the night before so their larger finds can be quickly carted away.

The preview is 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 29. Admission is a $1 donation, which includes an entry into a drawing for $500 gift certificate from Town & Country Market.

All told, the bounty of items stretches over six acres at the school, organizers said.

And it takes a huge crew to assemble, sort, prepare and put on the sale.

Saltrones said roughly 3,000 people have volunteered or have asked to help, and a total of 160,000 volunteer hours go into making the sale a success.

The Rotary provides lunch and dinners for the cadre of volunteers, as well.

"For a lot of people, it's sort of like adult summer camp," Saltrones said. "You get to do all this fun stuff and hang out with your friends."

The work of volunteers gets hectic this week, as helpers will be stationed at the school to accept donations to the sale and auction.

From 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 22 through Wednesday, June 27, volunteers will be on hand at Woodward Middle School to help unload items and give donors a tax receipt for the items they are dropping off.

The best time to drop off items, Saltrones said, is from 7 to 9 a.m.

Last year's sale brought in $370,000, which the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island donated back to good works here on the island and beyond.

Money from the first sales, in the early 1960s, went toward building a library on Bainbridge. In recent years, the funds have gone to everything from student scholarships to parks and sports fields, dance floors, and water wells and other infrastructure in Third World countries.

In northern Uganda alone, Saltrones said, the Rotary has been able to fund projects that have brought clean water to more than 150,000 people.


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