Early morning sun glints off the windshields of cars and trucks as families move along the roadside toward Woodward School, Starbucks in hand. It is 7:30 am on the last Saturday of June. The Bainbridge Rotary Auction is about to begin. Straining the yellow caution tape, hundreds of shoppers await the last notes of the National Anthem, the official start of six hours of controlled chaos.
Each year the good citizens of Bainbridge Island squirrel away their outgrown, unused, and no longer needed possessions. Where another town might take it’s cast offs to a donation station, around here we say “let’s save that for the Rotary.” So, as the months go by, the garages of the Island become more crowded, closets tighter and sheds groan.
The arrival of June induces a frenzy of spring cleaning and sorting. Garage sale signs sprout from telephone poles. In the diner, conversation turns to what one is hoping to find at the Auction.
Mid-June the signs go up, reminding everyone that the last Saturday of the month, Woodward Middle School will be the home of treasure, not of adolescents. All that good stuff that everyone has been saving all year will be gathered together in one location.
For seven days hundreds of volunteers sift, move, clean and repair items of all description as they are delivered to the school in mini vans, trucks and Prius. Sorted into 34 departments, ranging from beds to vehicles, the donations are organized to maximize impact.
Friday, the night before the Auction, locals and newbies alike come to the Preview, to inspect treasure and strategize for the next morning.
Saturday dawns early as volunteers gather at 6:30 to drink coffee, eat donuts and collect their equipment for the day. Aprons, change, and sold tags are passed out and last minute instructions issued. 7:45 brings the singing of the National Anthem. At the last note, the caution tape breaks and the rush is on.