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Decades of collecting treasures
When Ricardo Reyes first got involved with the Coupeville Lions Club three years ago and learned about the organization’s annual garage sale, one of the members took him to where donated items were stored.
Reyes was awestruck.
“I could not believe how much stuff we had,” he said.
Flash forward three years and the assessment remains the same. Crack open a door to Freeman Boyer’s cavernous barn and there are objects stacked high and deep with little room to spare.
Three nearby barns share the same story.
“They’re all full,” club member Bill Bainbridge said.
This leads to the biggest myth about the Coupeville Lions Club garage sale, which will get underway at the sound of an air horn June 28-29, sending hundreds of people rummaging through thousands of items at Coupeville Elementary School.
“People always say it’s the same stuff. They’ll say, ‘You must store it over,’” Bainbridge said, breaking into a smile.
“No, we start fresh every year.”
This is the 35th year of the Coupeville garage sale, the Lions Club’s largest fundraiser. More than $40,000 was raised in each of the past two years. All of the money goes back into the community through the various causes the Lions Club supports, said Reyes, who is co-chair of the event this year.
During the course of the year, some donations such as a mattress or an appliance might be routed directly to a family or community member in need. But the lion’s share goes to the sale.
“People in this community are really, really good,” said Rod Barnes, the club’s historian.
Barnes has seen the sale grow “by leaps and bounds,” recalling the time he was chairman about 30 years ago when the sale raised about $7,000.
It takes about 200 volunteers to make the event happen from setup to shutdown, Reyes said. Volunteers this year include about 15-17 active duty personnel from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
In the days leading to the event, a convoy of vehicles with flatbed trailers will transport items from Boyer’s farm to the elementary school.
But some people don’t need to see the trucks to know what’s coming.
Reyes said that he was told by Lynda Eccles, executive director of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, that some out-of-state visitors plan their vacations to the island around the date of the garage sale.
People will start to trickle on to the elementary school grounds June 27 and survey what they’ll be after during a sneak preview that will be held from 1-6 p.m.
The morning of June 28, large crowds start to gather that historically has numbered into the hundreds, some with paper in hand showing a map they charted to find an item.
The sale takes place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 28 and resumes from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. June 29.
An air horn starts the frantic pursuit. Lions members repeatedly ask customers not to run.
“We hold our breath and cross our fingers that nobody gets hurt,” Reyes said.
The items are endless, ranging from tools to luggage to furniture to cars to boats.
Bainbridge has watched antique dishes and doll collections be purchased over the years and recently saw a pickup truck go for $1,400.
The items that aren’t sold are donated to thrift stores that will accept them. Things nobody wants get recycled or sent to the landfill as a last resort.
The rest time in between sales doesn’t last long.
“Sometimes, we try to take a month off, sometimes two,” Bainbridge said. “Sometimes, you can’t.”