Oh Rotary Auction, How I Love You

Here on "The Rock," we pride ourselves on community. There are events to celebrate every aspect of island living: holidays, summer concert series at the park, Chilly Hilly bicycle races, the pop-up Scotch Broom Parade, etc. None, however, warm my heart quite like the Bainbridge Island Rotary Auction & Rummage Sale. My boys used to call it the "largest yard sale of them all” (translated in little boy speak: “the mall"). I think they were right.

When they were little, we would give them $20 and send them off into the running crowds at 8:00 am (of course, they had to wait until the singing of the National Anthem, another tradition). It's okay to trample your neighbor in pursuit of that must-have tchotchke, but only after the last note falls from the lips of the National Anthem singer.

Over the years, my boys bought go-karts, crab pots, row boats, foosball tables, basketball hoops, and every pair of skis, snowboards, and sports gear their little arms could carry. Our rule: you buy it, you carry it to the car! If you are a serious Rotary Auction junkie, you parked the night before in the parking lot at Sakai. Then, the boys slept in the back of the truck and waited for the sun to come up. Or not, and try, to no avail, to sneak in. Rotarians are no fools: they have this thing called security! We received more than one call from the local security detail, alerting us that our boys were up to some shenanigans in the bike section or sporting goods area. Ohhhh, waiting is hard when there are so many great things to be purchased with $20 in your pocket.

Now mind you, the boys learned how to shop directly from the DNA in their beings, as Minski LOVES nothing more than a great deal on anything home decor, garden art, or furniture purchase. Oh yes, there was that one year that we bought a ‘56 Ford — we were that family. That truck became our ride for our Fourth of July fireworks runs, where kids would ride in the back to the Reservation and buy out the fireworks stand. No, there weren't seatbelts, just high side rails. We lived, and so did the kids.

We drove that truck for pumpkin patch trips, Christmas tree farm visits, Christmas caroling, and pushed it down Winslow Way several years with the boys’ baseball teams and girls’ softball teams hanging off the railings in the back for the Fourth of July parade. Who knew that Winslow Way was uphill! Well, the coaches learned, and we retired the truck.

It was a running joke in our family that the kids all knew to disappear as soon as they had their Rotary Auction goods bought and delivered to the car, because there would come the inevitable, desperate call from Minski mom: HELP! I needed couches and disassembled cast iron stoves loaded into the car. (“It will make such a unique planter for my cottage garden!” Insert eye roll and the magical disappearing act of my family.)

Well, now the boys are grown and have moved away, and I know they laugh out loud when I send them the pictures of my latest "must-have" purchases from the Rotary Auction.

After 20+ years, it is a tradition deeply woven into the fabric of this island and myself. Hugs and hellos from old friends, neighbors, kids who have grown to adulthood, and coaches who were such a big part of our kids’ lives. Smiles, laughter, and a reminder that it's all done to raise money for our local community, schools, parks, as well as projects to help those around the world with clean water, building supplies, and couches (lots and lots of couches). Well done, Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island: you give us so very much. In fact, the 2018 Rotary Auction, in the midst of all of the community and stories, raised over $600,000.

I think my boys are correct — it just may be the largest yard sale of them all. More importantly, the Rotary Auction is a magical time to reconnect and celebrate all the wonderful people and relationships that this island has to offer.