It is a fixture of late summer in Vail. The third and fourth weekends in August, over 3000 people converge on the original Battle Mountain HIgh School in Minturn’s Maloit Park, which the the Eagle Valley Rummage Sale occupies courtesy of the Eagle School District. Eager patrons start lining up at 5 a.m. to get first pick of the merchandise which fills 14 rooms as well as outside tents. The sale’s scope is tremendous, and there is almost nothing you can’t buy. Locals come to outfit their children for the coming school year and load up on books for winter reading. The “new room” contains donated clothing which is brand new, and the toy room is a child’s cornucopia of delights. Looking for housewares, sporting equipment, a computer or sound system, a crib or a stroller? This is the place for you. The clothing selection is so extensive that there is even a room dedicated to denim, and of course ski gear abounds. Under the tents, one can find bikes, furniture and other large items. The categories are too numerous to name.
Needless to say, an event like this does not materialize overnight. Volunteers have been working day in and day out since the middle of May. They are a true cross-section of the community for whom no task is too humble. They range from members of the Eagle Valley Humane Society, which is responsible for the book room and ski clothing, to the Eagle Seniors’ Center which has taken ownership of the linen room and the handicrafts. As well, members of Boy Scout Troup 231 participate in manning the shoe room and provide and sell lunch on both sale weekends. And, Vail Mountain Rescue is out in force taking charge of the parking lot. Altogether, it takes 14,000 volunteer hours to put on this remarkable show of community solidarity.
Once the sale is over, whatever is left is boxed up and picked up by the Salvation Army of Denver. The event raises approximately $180,000 to support over 70 Eagle Valley nonprofits. Volunteers from each group work on the sale, and the profits are distributed to their organizations at the rate of seven dollars per volunteer hour. Heading the list in 2016 were the Humane Society, Eagle Seniors and Vail Mountain Rescue. Other groups run the gamut from the Veterans of Foreign Wars to Eagle Valley High School and Berry Creek Middle School. In this valley, no one is too old or too young to volunteer, and no community group is too small to have an impact.
When and how did this remarkable endeavor start? Like so many things in Vail, it began in the 1960s when the town was barely a dot on the map. It was spearheaded by early valley residents with big hearts and unlimited energy who were determined to build a community. The idea for a rummage sale was born of the necessity to raise funds for the two teachers who staffed the town’s original school. Back then, the sale was run by parents. In the early 1970s it became the purview of the newly formed Eagle Valley Community Fund. In 1974, Vi Brown was elected the fund’s president and Nancy Nottingham its vice president. Vi and her husband Byron were the sale’s guiding lights for more than 50 years. Byron crisscrossed the increasingly populous and spread-out community in his truck, picking up bulky items. People who wanted to drop off donations were encouraged to place them on the Browns’ porch in West Vail. The organization functioned so amicably and smoothly that they did not hold another election until 2016, when Vi stepped down and was succeeded by whom else, but Nancy!
You have probably heard the name Nottingham before, think Nottingham Lake in Avon. Nancy married into one of the valley’s original ranching families, having met her husband Mauri at the University of Colorado. In 1968 they moved back to Vail, and plunged into the ski industry, building and running the Talisman Lodge. Then, for many years, Nancy managed the resort’s children’s programs. She also founded the ski area’s employee childcare center. In 2016, she and Mauri were honored with the Vail Valley Foundation’s Volunteer of the Year Award. Nancy brims with enthusiasm for all things Vail and relishes her busy schedule of community pursuits, but she emphasizes the need for a new generation of volunteer leaders. Even the best held baton must eventually be passed. For the moment, however, the rummage sale remains in her most capable hands, and she is its remarkable cheerleader in chief