Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale marks 50th anniversary

Volunteers sift though donations and search for display space at the Eagle Community Fund Rummage Sale. The event is marking its 50th anniversary this summer and the sale gets under way at 6:45 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16.
Enterprise file photo |

The Eagle Valley Community Fund Rummage Sale is showing its age, and for dozens of local non-profit organizations, that is a very good thing.

For the past 50 years, the rummage fund has been both a community boon and a summertime hallmark. Some out-of-state shoppers have been known to plan vacation schedules around the event while others consider it their go-to option for back to school shopping.

“In 1964 the first rummage sale raised money for Vail Country Day School’s first teacher,” notes the event website. “Later, the sale helped pay off debt for the first public school in Vail and for developing the Vail Valley Medical Center.”

These days the sale raises nearly $200,000 and benefits the Eagle Valley Community Fund, which distributes dollars to more than 60 non-profit organizations, school groups and important causes all over Eagle County.

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Social all summer

Beginning each spring, the rummage sale volunteers send out the call for donations and throughout the summer months they sift through mountains of clothing, household goods, sports equipment, furniture and more. The sale items are priced and sent to their appropriate rooms inside the former, and long abandoned, Battle Mountain High School building. During the sales’ four-day run, thousands of shoppers will comb through the building, looking for amazing, can’t miss deals. Then when the whole thing is done, a semi trailer pulls into the site and the leftover goods are packed up for delivery to Denver-area charities.

Then the process begins again next year.

Long time local Paula Palmateer has been volunteering at the rummage sale since 2000.

“That’s not that long based on the fact that Vi Brown (the organizer of the event) has been doing it for 50 years,” said Palmateer.

Palmateer designates the Red Ribbon Project as the beneficiary of her volunteer efforts. That’s part of the overall rummage sale structure — local non-profits are accordingly rewarded based on the work volunteers contribute on their behalf.

“It’s such a social thing, throughout the summer,” said Palmateer. She has been at work sorting through rummage sale donations about two days a week throughout July and August. She also often helps during the days following the sale when everything left over is bagged up and sent off.

“That is a sight to behold,” she said, describing the bucket-brigade type operation that hauls out the bags which are then literally stuffed in a semi, filling up all the space from floor to roof.

Shopper excitement

While the ultimate result of the sale effort is checks in the hands of local non profits, the killer deals are what get people excited. There will be a line of folks ready to shop when the event opens its doors at 6:45 a.m. this Saturday, Aug. 16.

“When we first moved to Vail in 1970, we bought our first set of skis and boots at the rummage sale,” said Palmateer.

Sports equipment is still a big seller at the event, but really anything and everything can be found. Palmateer has a few items she purchases every year. “You always break wine glasses and every year you can choose from a good assortment of wine glasses,” she said.

For shoppers leery about buying electric appliances at the sale, Palmateer noted that volunteers both clean up and check out every donation before it can hit the sales floor.

“I know people who swear by the sale. They get amazing deals,” said Denise Kipp of Eagle. Like Palmateer, Kipp volunteers at the sale on behalf of the Red Ribbon Project.

“What an amazing event this is for the whole community,” Kipp said. “There is such a sense of community when I am there and everyone is so friendly. They are all truly doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.”

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