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Having fun at the annual Gilpin County Flea Market

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This year’s most unusual item…

By Lynn Volkens

It was definitely the armadillo. That’s what the volunteers of High Country Auxiliary said was the most unusual item donated for their annual Flea Market, held last weekend; one of them dubbed it “Julio.” The armored mammal might have had competition from the spider-like “Battery Operated Vibrating Head Massager” which requires setting the contraption’s spherical body on the crown of your head, dangling the six-inch metal legs all around so that the “feet” are touching the scalp and sides of the head, then (say a prayer) and hit the switch. There’s probably a remote chance that the Auxiliary could actually see another one of these – but probably not another armadillo. They won’t be seeing this armadillo again, anyway. The man who bought it was sending it traveling, (think Travelocity’s gnome), first to the mid-west, and who knows from there.

High Country Auxiliary has been holding flea markets well back into the 1980’s (as referenced in this issue’s Turn Back the Pages). The event went county-wide in 2003, moved into the Exhibit Barn and fairgrounds, and became the Gilpin County Annual Flea Market. Thirty-eight vendors signed up for booth space this year, including several food vendors offering much needed refreshment for hard-working volunteers and hard-shopping customers. Private individuals and organizations were selling antiques, fantasy figurines and medieval-looking weapons, tools, furniture and all of the usual garage sale type items. This was the first year that various county departments sold off surplus items that have been in storage for years. Public Works had tires, hydraulic and other shop fluids in 50-gallon drums, oversized Sonotubes and a large welded sculpture titled “Bolt Tree.” Sales were good. Other departments had boxes of office supplies to sell. A few no longer needed county vehicles were there for inspection, but sold via sealed bid auction.

It’s still High Country Auxiliary that rules the Exhibit Barn roost, however (and there might actually have been a chicken roost in with the livestock feeders and other barn equipment.) Fully half the Barn was filled with goods donated to the Auxiliary by the community that supports them. Each year it’s anybody’s guess how much “stuff” and what kind of “stuff” will be donated; but the community always comes through. Auxiliary president, Roxie Morris, said there were already a couple of dog houses parked at the Barn door very early on Thursday morning when the Auxiliary volunteers “clocked in” for set-up. More things arrived by the car, truck and trailer-load throughout the day. Several of Timberline Fire Protection District volunteer firefighters set out in their own vehicles to pick up and deliver goods to the Barn throughout both Thursday and Friday. Timberline’s cadre of cadets hustled items and boxes into the Barn and set about “merchandising” the goods in attractive (and very sales-effective) displays. Auxiliary treasurer, Wanda Sundquist, said the Auxiliary ladies just told the cadets to “set the table” or “put something on these shelves” and they were on it with enthusiasm and impressive creativity. A patio table, set with bright yellow dishware and irresistible “diners,” a giant teddy-bear and large smiling elephant, attracted lookers and buyers right off. As items sold, the cadets replaced from the “stock” ladened rows of long tables.

There was a lot of nice furniture this year: bunk-beds, dressers, a black leather sectional couch, dining and patio tables, entertainment centers, hutches, an electric fireplace, an electric organ and two sections of theater seats (DVD’s on aisle five; sound systems in the “electronics section”). Music and book-lovers had a wide selection of each to choose from, including J.K. Rowling’s latest, “Casual Vacancy” (hardback, excellent condition, $1). This was the place to stock up on jigsaw puzzles – all sizes, all varieties, some brand new and still sealed in their boxes; all inexpensive. Nearby: baby strollers and other infant/toddler items. Across the way: toys and sporting equipment.

“Housewares” held bedding, curtains, towels, glassware, silverware, dishes and plates by the piece or the set, plus small appliances of various makes and purpose from making iced tea to roasting turkey. A coffee grinder displayed next to coffee makers (by the cup or 100-cup) and a cappuccino maker offered a complete set-up or, forget the push-buttons, and make an old-fashioned beverage with the James Bond-style cocktail shaker spotted nestled in the cups. Someone bought it, as a disappointed shopper who’d “come back for it” bemoaned. An abundant supply of decorator/designer items (including an entire collection of frogs) made for good window-shopping and delighted exclamations when someone happened on just the right piece of framed art, basket, or knick-knack. An individual, who must really get into decorating for Christmas, hit the jackpot and purchased holiday items and several Christmas trees, ranging in size from 3’ to 9’, in one swoop. Gardeners found pots galore-handy to have as the Auxiliary had several trays of donated bedding plants available. The Colorado State Extension office held its annual plant sale in conjunction with the flea market, too.

“Re-purposers” found ample items for crafting something new from something old. For “vintage” aficionados, a pretty pink banquette was oh so desirable, but many folks claimed, “I just don’t have the room for it.” One person decided to make room for it, however – it was marked “Sold” on Saturday. Then there was the “retro” cabinet radio, the old-timey Crosley-companion-style shelf radio (also marked “Sold”) that easily kept the background music going throughout the sale. One sharp-eyed shopper bought a Blue Willow plate at a far-below-antique-store price and an aluminum 1950’s cake-keeper wasn’t on display for long. Nostalgia may have played a part in that sale. Two very nice Schwinn bicycles also had folks thinking back to earlier days. Canning jars were in demand – a reminder that this “retro” method of food preservation has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Outside in the “hardware” section there was stove-pipe, a Homelite generator, gutters, shop and home vac’s, chain saws, weed eaters, attic vents, exterior lighting, power tools and hand tools. Several snow shovels, but no lawn mowers. There was no kitchen sink, but customers had their choice of several bathroom sinks, a commode to go with, the medicine cabinet, mirrors, a Jacuzzi tub and a “rain” shower head for a grand finish (towels on aisle two). In addition to large-animal supplies, there were items for smaller animals and pets, all the way down to a full aquarium set-up for tropical fish.

Auxiliary members and shoppers say there’s a lot of fun to be had in the selling and the buying. The blue-aproned Auxiliary members are known for haggling; shoppers are known for finagling. “You never know what you’ll find here,” is a comment heard over and over. (At the end of Friday one Auxiliary member found a “Make Me an Offer” sticker stuck to her backside…). This group makes even the hard work part of the fun.

The Flea Market is one of three fund-raising events that High Country Auxiliary does to support the needs of volunteer emergency responders in Gilpin County. The two groups principally supported with on-scene meals and occasional equipment purchases are Timberline and the Gilpin County Animal Response Team (GCART). The latter is a group of trained and dedicated livestock and small animal handlers who can rescue animals in danger. Both of these groups are especially important to support as Gilpin enters the crux of the wildfire season. The Auxiliary also occasionally supports other emergency responders working in Gilpin, as needed. When the Flea Market is over, all unsold goods are given away to other charitable organizations. Ermel’s Thrift Store in Central City is always invited to gather up whatever they can use. This year the Cancer Federation, out of Aurora, was invited to take the rest. They arrived Saturday afternoon with a big truck and a crew to get the job done.

High Country Auxiliary members want the community to know how much they appreciate the support given to them at all of their fund-raising events. Watch for the blue-aproned volunteers next at the Pancake Breakfast on Sunday morning, August 18th, at the Gilpin County Fair.

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