The queen of rummage |

The queen of rummage

Preston Utley/Vail DailyVi Brown, a Vail resident since the 1960s, is the organizer of the Eagle Valley Community Fund Auction and Rummage Sale, which begins this weekend in Minturn.

MINTURN ” There are cowboy hats and coffee makers. Ski suits and a Stair-master. Kitchen utensils, computers, couches and fur coats.

The Eagle Valley Community Fund Auction and Rummage Sale is a symphony of miscellany, and Vi Brown is its conductor. But Brown has her own simile.

“Having the sale is like having a party,” she said. “And we’re just thrilled so many people come. It would be a shame if no one showed up.”

About 5,000 people showed up last year for the sale, which Brown has directed since 1972. Last year, the event raised $180,000 for dozens of charities in Eagle County.

The items for sale fill 14 rooms in an old school and spill out into the surrounding yards. It’s a deal-hunter’s paradise: T-shirts are a dollar, records are a few cents and computers are less than $50.

The sale has grown from a small fund-raiser for Vail’s school to a four-day extravaganza. It used to take three days for volunteers to set up the sale.

“Three days, then a week, then three weeks. Now it’s the whole summer,” Brown said.

Brown started helping out with the sale in 1968, after her daughter was born. The sale was a way to get funding for Vail’s new public school ” just another inventive solution in a brand-new community.

“Everyone was of one mind and everyone helped everyone,” Brown said. “You kind of made it up as you came along.”

Later, the sale began to benefit nonprofits across the county. It moved to the Lodge at Vail, then to Meadow Mountain Elementary, then to Minturn Middle School. About 15 years ago, the sale moved to its current home, the old Battle Mountain High School at Maloit Park.

Brown said the sale appeals to the thrift she learned growing up in Minnesota.

“I like that you can make something out of nothing,” she said.

As a young woman, Brown left her native Willmer, Minn., on a train bound for Colorado.

“Even when I was a young girl, I dreamed about the mountains,” she said.

She took a job with Sears-Roebuck in Denver. She met her future husband, Byron, when she was skiing at Arapahoe Basin. She fell down going up a surface lift and Byron, a ski patroller, came to her aid.

Byron and Vi moved to Vail in 1964. Byron became one of Vail’s first real estate agents.

“It was great to come to Vail when it was a baby and grow with it,” she said.

The Browns raised three children and have three grandchildren.

“We always thought this was a great place to raise kids, and it still is,” she said as she held her baby granddaughter in the rummage sale building.

Hundreds of volunteers from almost 60 nonprofit groups help put on the event. Almost 16,000 volunteer hours were clocked last year. The group with the most volunteer hours gets $9,000, and groups with fewer hours get lesser amounts.

People from all over the county donate items.

“Word gets around,” Brown said. “Somebody tells somebody and then everyone knows this is the place to bring the stuff you need to get rid of.”

The sale draws visitors from across the country. By Brown’s records, people from 31 states have visited the sale.

People will start lining up as early as 4 a.m. for the opening at 6:45 Saturday morning. Apparently, every minutes counts when you’re trying to snag great rummage.

“We get a kick out of them,” Brown said. “We go out and give them a cup of coffee.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

Vail, Colorado

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