Who would have thought that a modest garage sale on a driveway on Iowa Street in Urbana in the summer of 1985 would go on for 25 more years and get bigger every year?
The CCHS Giant Garage Sale, so called because we can think of no better way to describe it, was born as a volunteer effort for the building campaign for the “new” shelter in Urbana. We moved into the new building three years later, but the need for funds continued, and besides, we had so much darned much fun.
That first sale yielded $1500, an astonishing sum to us for an event back then. We held the next two sales in the old Sears Roebuck store on Neil Street in Champaign, then in 1988, we moved to the Champaign County Fairgrounds, where we’ve stayed ever since.
Putting on this sale every year is work - darned hard work - and the volunteers who come back year after year would offer a variety of reasons for their loyalty, but for me the bottom line is this: Every year in mid May a wacky and delightful community of comrades springs up under the shade trees of the Fairgrounds, lasts for an intense couple of weeks, then quietly folds for another year.
During that interval we greet old friends and make new ones; dig through stuff, sometimes finding treasures and sometimes finding crap; get dirty, get hot, get cold; lift heavy boxes and unload cars; meet the public and get a chance to offer our thanks for their support; laugh, get sore feet; marvel with each other - “What IS this thing?”.
For hundreds of volunteers over the years, it has simply been a blast.
Window on Popular Culture
And it’s not just the entertainment, but the window it provides on popular culture and fading technologies over the years. We remember the first microwave, the first exercise equipment and the last beta tape. We remember a year we had 35 manual typewriters and another that brought us 12 red electric woks.
In the past few years we’ve seen the “As Seen on TV” trend, which well predicts what to expect. This year was the first for chocolate fountains and we had three! George Foreman grills are tapering off as digital cameras and printers flow in. The Pet Supply department experienced a surge in doggy fashion apparel, including a Santa outfit, and reports that Plexiglas aquariums are a hot item. The Boutique received a number of highly desirable blown glass paperweights, and Personal Care is happy to report the demise of the foot bath, for this year at least. Gardening had an abundance of wind chimes and wants everyone to know we can sell every single canna bulb and garden tool that anyone cares to donate. Sporting Goods received a number fishing poles this year, which sold like hotcakes and customers kept asking for more, so if you’ve got fishing equipment you no longer use, do keep us in your thoughts.
Recycling Pays Off
A few years ago we started a recycling program during the sale, which brought in additional cash for the over 3000 lbs metal we can extract and the truckload of clothing, shoes and linens we send to a St. Louis firm who pays us by the pound and processes it for textile recovery or resale.
Is it worth it?
But aside from all the fun and culture, what’s the bottom line? Has it been worth it?
I’ll say it has, and this year was another record breaker. 155 volunteers spent 4,528 hours and as of this writing, raised $53,533 for the shelter during the two day sale. Since that first driveway, the CCHS Giant Garage Sale has brought in an astonishing $600,000, all going to care for the animals. We’ll say it again: our volunteers are the best in town, and year after year, astonish us with their dedication, compassion and good nature.
Thank to Our Sponsors
We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Champaign County Fair Association for allowing us to occupy their beautiful setting once again, and special thanks to the donors who generously provide us goods to sell, and to our business partners who provide the snacks, drinking water, semitrailers, masking tape, markers, plywood, cash registers, trash hauling, recycling bins, shopping carts, tables, and bags that we need for this sale:
Alexander's Lumber, Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, U. of I. Do-It-Best Hardware Champaign , McCormick's Food , Michael's Catering, Rogards Office Products, Schnuck's Urbana, Interstate Trailer and Equipment, Urbana U-Cycle, Community Resource, Champaign County Fair Association.
See You Next Year?
It’ll happen again next year, so mark your calendars. We move into Kesler Hall on the second Sunday in May, start to accept donations from the public a few days later, and hold the sale on the Friday and Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend. We absolutely guarantee bargains galore, and it this sounds like something you’d like do, send an email to email@example.com and ask about how to sign up.