The semi-annual rummage sale to benefit the Visiting Nurse Association of Somerset Hills is spread over 26 departments for this year's sale, running from Friday through Sunday, filled with thousands of items, from the useful to the tastefully decorative, along with a few outlandish pieces—consider the wooden carving of a giant fish swallowing a fisherman.
There's furniture, clothing for men, women and children, books for all ages and tastes, electronics, lamp shades, Halloween costumes, artwork, toys, fine silver and more.
The three-day sale will be held at the Far Hills Fairgrounds between 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 12:30 p.m to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. On the last day, bargain prices will slashed even further, and some departments will hold "bag sales" with a set price for a bag stuffed full of items.
The sale goes on rain or shine.
The items were donated by people from the area who for weeks delivered carloads of stuff from their garages, closets or attics. Sometimes, donations are part of an estate.
Then, about 350 volunteers sorted and priced the merchandise and put it on display on the large tents that each May and October fill the fairgrounds at the corner of Route 202 and Peapack Road in Far Hills.
Volunteers sometimes draw on their expertise in their professional lives.
Bernadette Rubbo of the Stirling section of Long Hill Township worked in the auction business — which helps her price items sold in the Bon Ton tent, filled with more valuable items. "We tend to have the more traditional crystal and silver and collectible porcelains," Rubbo said.
Sandy Harrison of Bedminster, who has been a regular volunteer in handling art in the Bon Ton tent, pointed out a $300 limited print that she said would retail at about $950.
She said a number of pieces had been sold on Thursday — "family and friends" day in which volunteers' families and other VIPs can sift through merchandise at a preview sale. But those who shop the preview must pay a 25 percent premium to get into the sale before it officially opens.
Over in electronics, George Helmke, a retiree from Bell Labs who lives at Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge, volunteers in the tent that includes photographic equipment, since he said he's always been interested in photography.
Helmke pointed out a large telescope of about 4.5 inches in diameter, a sophisticated piece of equipment he said is a bargain at $35. But the catch — it comes without instructions.
Bill D'Zio of St. Thomas, with a home in Tewksbury, said that every electronics item is tested by volunteers, except for some, such as phones. Items are labeled if not tested, and priced accordingly, he said.
But D'Zio said that some items are sold if broken, or partially broken, and clearly labeled. For example, the sale might include a combination radio and cd player with one broken part.
But some items attract collectors even if they don't work, D'zio said — such as the old tube radios that may even lack tubes.
"The stuff is not just getting sold," D'zio said. By selling — or recycling items — they're kept out of the dumpsters, he said.
"It's a whole recycling deal," he said. Sometimes, he said people will buy something one year — and redonate it later, with the taped price still attached.
Paula Some, communications director for the VNA, said that the sense of heart and community among volunteers is part of what makes the rummage sale special. Volunteers come from Somerset County and also from Morris County, which also is served by the VNA of the Somerset Hills, she said.
The proceeds from the sale also go to a good cause — underwriting the cost of health care for clients of the VNA who have no insurance or are underinsured or who otherwise can't afford services, Some said.
"No one is ever denied health care from the VNA," she said.
New online "interactive" map this year
Some said she was involved in a new project this year to provide an interactive map pointing out the location of all the departments, which is available and can be printed out from the VNA of Somerset Hills website.
By clicking on each department, a shopper can see a list of the type of items sold within, Some said.
The VNA Rummage Sale now has a Facebook page, she added.