No Yard, Yard Sale – No Proper Planning Either…

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For years, the Minto Park Sale has been a staple of Centretown in the summer.  When my mother, sister, and I first moved into that neighbourhood we noticed we were right across the street from this grand community event.  It is advertised as a “no yard, yard sale” and is the perfect opportunity for the residents of nearby apartment buildings – those without a yard – to have a yard sale once a year.  But this event has also drawn other kinds of vendors in the past, besides local residents looking to get rid of their unwanted belongings.  When we first started attending this event there were booths set up by local artists selling their wares, food trucks, and even live bands.  It was always a phenomenal event, and we knew that when we heard the music coming through our living room window that we had a wonderful day ahead of us.

But the event has changed over the years, and not for the better.

Three years ago I decided to sign up for a yard sale table, and I have had a table every year since.  The sign-up process has always been a bit of a hassle.  If I didn’t know about the event to begin with, it would be almost impossible for me to register for it.  I have spoken to other residents of the community who expressed an interest in participating but who had no idea how to actually register.  Every year has involved hunting down the contact information of the organizers, stalking the city councilor’s website for the dates of the event as well as the registration dates, and sending multiple emails to the organizers to confirm my spot and confirm logistical details of the event.  I always got the feeling that this event wasn’t necessarily a priority for the organizers.

I had also noticed a lack of, well, everything since I started participating in this yard sale.  My first year, the sale was rained out so it was no surprise that there wasn’t a lot going on, but the second and third years really only featured local residents and their yard sale tables.  The park used to be packed, but for the past three years Minto Park has barely been full.  Not as many artists, no live band, no food truck.  Plus, there have been people walking through the park not knowing what is going on, or residents not realizing that it was Yard Sale day – there has been an alarming lack of advertising and social media exposure for this event.  There is always a Facebook page but I have often noticed that when someone posts a question it rarely gets answered or even acknowledged.

And probably the most frustrating thing of all is that the event keeps getting shut down early.  In previous years, it used to last all day (until 4pm or 5pm according to seasoned veterans of the yard sale).  My first year, the arrival of the rain obviously ended things early, but last year the event was shut down at 2pm.  This year it was supposed to go until 2pm, but at 1pm the volunteers started coming around to collect all the tables and to shut the sale down.  We were told we could stay in the park as long as we wanted, we just wouldn’t be able to use the tables THAT WE PAID TO RENT.  We were told that the sale was ending at 1pm because it’s what they do in the suburbs, and because the volunteers had been working all day and were done work for the day.

  1. THIS NEIGHBOURHOOD IS NOT IN THE SUBURBS. Suburb logic does not apply at all for this event.  This event is downtown, just off Elgin, where brunch crowds emerge from nearby restaurants at around 2pm. Also, the Minto Park Sale is always coordinated with the Elgin Street Public School Book Fair (which typically runs until 4 or 5pm), so between the regular hustle and bustle of downtown, the brunch crowd, and the book fair, there are tons of people walking around the area well into the early evening.  To end an event like this as early as 1pm is idiotic.  So many people came through the park after the sale was officially over (a handful of us vendors decided to stay later, even without our tables) and they were all upset that they had missed the event.  A number of people even mentioned that they had seen us on their way to brunch and decided they would stop by to check things out after brunch – so of course they were not happy to return to an almost empty park.  Those of us who were there to sell yard sale items could have sold a lot more, so of course none of us were happy about the situation either.
  2. The problem with the volunteers is that they were not staggered throughout the day.  Every single volunteer started work at 6:30am, so of course they were all tired by 1pm.  If the shifts had been staggered then there would be no issue with keeping some volunteers later.  But instead, we all had to deal with a bunch of disgruntled teenagers who just wanted to collect our tables and go home.  A few of the volunteers were polite and were prepared to wait while vendors packed up their tings, but some were downright rude and interrupted conversations with potential customers to demand we return our tables immediately.

So what went wrong?  I was speaking with the woman who had her table set up next to mine and she said that the event had gotten worse and worse for her over the years too.  It is the city councilor of Somerset Ward who is in charge of this event and, apparently, when the previous city councilor was in control this event was at its best.  Now, under the current city councilor, the event has been declining.  Since I have become involved as a vendor, I find the event becomes more and more disorganized year after year.  And given the frustration I experienced this year – and the fact that although my mother still lives in that neighbourhood, I no longer do – I am not sure I ever want to participate again.  I hope that the current city councilor listens to how unhappy people are about this event, because it could be so much better than it is right now.  A lot of people mentioned during the event that they would write to the councilor to complain, and I hope that that brings about some much needed change.  If not, hopefully the next city councilor for that ward does a better job of organizing this event.

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