Rummage sale hits 40th year |

Rummage sale hits 40th year

Daniel Elton
Eve Carlson, left, and her sister Vail of Larkspur sift through piles of clothes with friends Holly Cooper and Mallory Brigham at last summer's Minturn Rummage Sale. This year's sale starts Saturday.

MINTURN – The Eagle Valley Community Fund Auction and Rummage Sale will celebrate its 40th year with lower prices and more items than ever, organizers say.”Many items we usually put on sale for 50 cents are going to be 40 cents this year because of the anniversary,” explains Vi Brown, matriarch of the sale. “We’re hoping for an even bigger sale than last year.”Doors open at 6:45 on Saturday morning. The most earnest shoppers will get up early in hopes of scoring that killer bargain.”By 6:30 they’ll be in a line all the way down the road and there’ll be about 300 of them,” Brown says. “When the doors open, it’ll be like the running of the bulls.”Local shoppers will have some national competition, as well. The sale in the past has attracted customers from the likes of Arkansas and Pennsylvania. Bobbie Halm of Pittsburgh used to stop at the sale when riding through America on her Yamaha Virago motorcycle. She has sped through every state in the union on her bikes, but she said she just had to come back to Minturn to volunteer this year. “I have so many good friends here,” she says. Some out-of-towners have developed a bit of an auction and rummage sale subculture. Organizers expect 30 or 40 camper vans that set up their own community nearby every year. On the first Saturday night, the visitors will parade in front of the campfire in fancy dress bought at the sale.Vail, Colorado

Fortunes to be foundAnother attraction for rummagers is that there’s always a chance of making a small fortune. Diamond rings have been bought for $600 only to be appraised afterward for $1,500. Volunteer Willie Fuhrman says, “Last year my daughter, who lives in Seattle, paid $100 for a rug. She paid $100 for it to be cleaned and $100 for it to be shipped to Washington state. In Seattle, it was appraised for $6,000.”Bargain hunters have to be careful, though. The rummage game can be a risky one to play, as Fuhrman explains: “One year I gave away my husband’s papier-mache sculpture of a motorcyclist to the sale. I didn’t tell him, though, that I’d done it. The next Christmas we get a package, he opens it up and it’s the papier-mache cyclist. He was so excited and said to me, ‘Now we have a matching pair.'”The sale makes over $170,000 every year now, peaking at $189,000 in 2000. It takes up the entire former high school up in Maloit Park and spills over into several tents. The work starts on May 15 every year. As volunteer Stacy Parnass puts it, “We are never ready. The sale just comes.” Items as diverse as megadrives and ski boots, pacifiers and art prints must be sorted, checked and priced.

Back whenIt wasn’t always this big. The Eagle Ladies put on the first sale in 1964. It was a high school sale that organizers hoped would raise enough money to pay for a teacher. Brown first volunteered four years later, when they raised just $1,000 and worked on it for three days in total. For years, the sale was held for and in the high school whose shell now holds the annual thrift sale. But the high school moved out of the building years ago, and the sale now benefits 65 diverse nonprofits in the county. Brown says giving out money to the various causes is her favorite part. “I really enjoy playing Santa Claus. You get to recycle and to share the wealth. Getting to share the great things we have in Eagle County,” she says. Brown says you can tell quite a lot about Eagle County from what’s on sale. “We can tell that quite a few people go to the islands on holiday every year from the county, as we always get the same number of Hawaiian shirts,” she says.

The quirky side to the county is also revealed in the rooms and stalls of the sale. In the past few years, a shopper could have bought an African birthing chair, or a mirror made out of shells. The volunteers The sale is only possible because of the dozens of volunteers who give 20, 30, 40 and more hours before the sale has even started. Volunteers work for a local nonprofit. When the bills have been paid off, what’s left is split among the volunteers’ organizations according to how many hours they put in.”With the same people coming back year after year, it’s like a mini family,” Brown says. This is her 36th year, but the newest member of the team, Trish Esperon, shares the feeling. Esperon, who is volunteering for Eagle Valley Humane Society and the Alliance For Sustainability in the books section of the sale, says, “It’s been so much fun working with everyone else this summer.”This year’s sale starts Saturday at 6:45 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. Admission is 50 cents for Saturday. The auction begins at 8 a.m., with Jac Laman at the mike. The sale continues from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday and then the following weekend. On Saturday, Aug. 28, and Sunday, Aug. 29, items will be half price and open for bartering.Daniel Elton is an intern from Cambridge University in England.

Support Local Journalism