Could you imagine a yard sale so epic that it nets over $20,000? Now in its 13th year, the Mount Vernon Community School’s Big Flea has grown to be one of the area’s largest — and most anticipated — Alexandria fundraisers.
“It’s my favorite school event because everyone can participate,” said Big Flea Chair Jen Atkins. “It’s tremendous the way everyone in the community gets involved.” Proceeds from the Big Flea fund field trips, enrichment activities, special events, computers, musical instruments, and art & classroom supplies.
This year’s Big Flea takes place on Sat., April 27 from 7am to 1pm at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center, located at 2701 Commonwealth Avenue. Flea insiders share their advice on how to make the most of Del Ray’s best treasure hunt:
1. Make a list.
Having a baby? Renovating a room? Making a list of what you’re looking before you shop makes the jam-packed gym less overwhelming. “Allow yourself plenty of time to browse. Come with a friend who can help you transport larger items and keep an eye out for bargains,” suggests DIY Del Ray’s Katie Briscoe. “At the event everything will be organized by type. You never know what cool and interesting items you’ll find that you never knew you ‘needed.'” Larger items, like furniture and baby gear, often go fast — so head to those sections first.
2. Measure, but keep an open mind.
If you’re looking to fill a space, come armed with measurements — but think outside the box. “Think of other ways you can use a piece of furniture: an old sewing table turned into a bar, a dresser as a dining room sideboard (or vice versa), a TV cabinet as a wardrobe, a coffee table as a kids art/ ,” said Briscoe. And remember that any item can be transformed with paint, knobs, and other accessories.
What should you look for? “Wood furniture is your best bargain,” advises Briscoe. “If the piece has drawers, check to see if they have dovetailed construction as this usually means higher quality. Don’t be scared away by surface scratches. You can always refinish or paint really easily. Same goes for hardware — if it looks dated, consider replacing drawer knobs and pulls with something more your style.” She also notes that chairs and stools with removable cushions can easily be restyled — “check to make sure the seats can be removed and the frame is sturdy.”
From pool tables to mid-century chairs, you never know what might turn up at this year’s event. (Photos: facebook.com/MVBigFlea)
3. The early flea gets the worm…
Grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and score early entry to the sale — and first pick at the fab finds — at 7am for just $10. Can’t wait until April 27? Visit Flea Headquarters at 444 Swann Ave. for their final Shop & Drop on Sat. April 13 from 2pm to 5pm for early shopping. If you’re decluttering, they take donations then, too.
4. …but come late, too.
At 11:00 am, volunteers clear the room, and everything is 50% off when doors reopen. They clear the room again at 12:45 and if you pay a $5 re-entry fee at 1:00 pm, you can take whatever you want for free. Warning, though: if you’re interested in an item, snag it right away — and know your dollars are going to a great cause. And don’t think you can hide a pile of stuff and come back to get it for half price. Flea volunteers rearrange everything before opening the doors back up.
5. Don’t worry about a truck.
If you’re in the market for furniture, here’s another reason to shop early: Team Flea offers delivery for a $25 fee. Demand is usually very high — so shop early, or, if you have access to a truck or van, consider making arrangements in advance.
6. Get involved!
While an army of parent volunteers makes the Big Flea happen, a number of businesses and community members have made it possible for the event to grow. Each year generous donors provide free space for collecting and sorting donations. Local company Capitol Hill Construction donates trucks and manpower to pick up donations
and to deliver purchases and Gentle Giant Moving Company does the same to transport everything from storage to the Rec Center. Volunteer slots are still available — and Briscoe notes that volunteers get “first dibs” on new items that come in Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.