BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WASH. - It's 7:30 am on Bainbridge Island, and this crowd is gathered...for a garage sale.
A man on a megaphone yells:
"Who's running this morning? You guys are in charge of keeping everybody around you safe. We don't want anybody getting hurt this morning."
Every year, thousands of bargain hunters line up for the treasures behind caution tape, waiting for the sale to open. Some have wagons for their hauls, some bring wheel barrows.
"It's pure insanity. You have to be careful to move out of the way because people will mow you down. They absolutely will," said Chris Bull, director of security for this event.
They're looking for everything from books, to sporting goods, to American Girl Dolls. And there's one other thing everyone is here for:
"Tradition! And the cause. It's a good cause," declared one of the folks waiting.
The cause is the Bainbridge Island Rotary Club -- this sale raises money for scholarships, community grants, and service projects.
Today, 6-acre Woodward Middle School is packed with everything from kitsch to, yes, kitchen sinks.
And volunteers are ready to sell.
"He said I wouldn't get $20 for this foosball table -- I'll get $350 for this foosball table because it's the best foosball table in America!" said one eager Rotarian. Another, in a hat made of astroturf with a tiny putting green flag on top, is set to sell dozens of sets of used golf club. Yet another, working in books, sports a red and white striped Cat-in-the-Hat Hat.
"I've been working on my meow. But it scares the little kids," he laughed
Another tradition -- the National Anthem plays over the loudspeaker. And when the final notes wrap up, the tape comes down, and the race to the bargains begins.
After the mad rush, one man's junk becomes another man's treasure hundreds of times over.
"We have just unbelievable bargains here, unbelievable bargains, and every dime that we raise we reinvest in our community and beyond," said Tom McCloskey, sale chairman.
Over the last 54 years, this sale has raised more than $6 million. McCloskey got emotional as he watched this tradition unfold again.
"All these people. The community and their generosity," he said, surveying the happy chaos.
In 2014, the Bainbridge Island Rotary Rummage Sale and Auction raised approximately $450,000 in just 6 hours. But the real wealth had nothing to do with money and everything to do with giving things away.
McCloskey summed it up:
"Just the generosity of the human spirit. You know? It's a wonderful thing."
The 2017 Bainbridge Island Rotary Auction and Rummage Sale takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 1 at Woodward Middle School (9125 Sportsman Club Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110). Customers will begin to wait at the school entrances several hours before 8 a.m. Each department will accept payments by cash and credit card (Visa, MasterCard and Discover).
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