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Lions Club Garage sale has humble origins

Thirty-three years ago, some members of the Woodbury Lions Club decided to organize a fundraiser that would also help the city maintain its small-town sense of community. A noble thought for a town with a census population of just more than 6,000.

A few dozen homes signed up to participate in the first ever Woodbury Lions Garage Sale in 1977.

"It was definitely a community event," said Cliff Jenkins, a former Woodbury resident who helped organize some of the first Woodbury Lions garage sale events. "That first one there weren't very many compared to the number of homes that are in it now."

Flash forward to present-day Woodbury: close to 800 homes are signed up to open their driveways and garages to the public May 8-9, which just happens to coincide with Fishing Opener and Mother's Day.

According to long-time Woodbury resident and original Lions garage sale organizer Paul Wernimont, the decision to hold the event on the Fishing Opener and Mother's Day weekend came about a few years in when organizers realized the sale would attract crowds that would be home in the community during Mother's Day and Fishing Opener.

The decision "revolved around having it late enough in the year so it wouldn't be too cold, but early enough so that people wouldn't jump the gun or get to anxious to proceed on their own," Wernimont wrote in a summary of the event.

It didn't take long for the event to become a hit with Woodbury residents buying and selling their used possessions.

Organizers came up with the idea of mapping the addresses of participating homes the first year, and the tradition continues. The Woodbury Bulletin currently has a contract with the Lions Club to design and print the maps.

Longtime Lions Club member Dick Stafford said the maps are especially helpful for the out of towners who flock to the garage sale each year.

"We've got people coming by the bus load from as far as Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, from all over, Stafford said. "That's when you know it's become a big deal."

'Piggy backers' and 'poachers' persist

The amount of participation has also meant big bucks for the community.

The Lions Club takes in $30 per registered home and applies those proceeds to its general funds that helps with many projects and activities, said Lions member Alex Hunt, who is currently the lead organizer for the garage sale event.

"It's amazing how many people call us and say they want to participate even after it's too late to get their address printed in the map," Hunt said. "They say 'I don't care, I'll pay the entry fee, just give me a sign to put in my yard.'"

Despite the enthusiasm, Stafford said the annual event does continue to encounter the minor issue of "piggy backers" or "poachers." These have become informal terms to describe residents who choose to hold a garage sale the same weekend as the Woodbury Lions Club Garage Sale, but are not associated with the event.

"There's always a few, and some of them still claim to not know about the event," Hunt said.

But Hunt said the vast majority of homes are happy to contribute to the event, which has been known, according to organizers and participants, as being on the better community garage sales in the Twin Cities because of the quality and affordability of the items for sale.

"Literally, the reputation proceeds itself," Hunt said, referring to the numbers of people who attend the garage sale from out of town "because they know Woodbury garage sales have the good stuff."

Woodbury Lions Club Spring Garage Sale 2009 directories, which cost $4 each, can be purchased at the following locations:

• Cub Foods - 8432 Tamarack Village

• Holiday Station - 757 Radio Drive and Valley Creek Road. & Co. Rd. 19

• Kowalski's - Valley Creek Road & Radio Drive

• Kwik Trip - 8477 City Centre Drive and County Road 19 & Hudson Road

• PDQ - Valley Creek Road & Weir Dr.

• Rainbow Foods - 7050 Valley Creek Plaza, Woodbury Village

• Super America - 1551 Woodlane Drive, 6401 Lake Road and 9910 Norma Lane

• Woodbury BP - 1561 Woodlane Drive