Mill Creek garage sale a tradition that ‘can’t be stopped’

MILL CREEK — People in affluent enclaves around Mill Creek are fixing to offer on-the-cheap deals for Saturday.

The community garage sale is set to span 21 neighborhoods around the golf course.

“It starts at Aspen and ends at Winslow,” said Mary Ann Heine of the Mill Creek Community Association. “It’s quite an adventure.”

Bargain hunters can find high-end items for a steal. Those who start early, at around 7 a.m., are likely to score the best wares.

The daylong event is not advertised and there isn’t an official organizer.

“It happens on its own, believe it or not,” said Mike Todd, a longtime city councilman and former mayor. “In fact, it can’t be stopped.”

People have long been peddling their possessions in front of homes and in garages throughout the town. The tradition takes place on the first Saturday in May and again in October.

Heine said she believes Mill Creek was the first in the area to hold a large-scale garage sale. It’s been going on since before Mill Creek became a city in 1983.

Heine said she believes one of the association’s original board members came up with the idea for the sale. The powerful homeowners group, which now includes more than half the city’s population, organized in 1973.

“Before we were here, there was nothing here,” Heine said.

In the early 1980s, Mill Creek had about 3,000 residents. The garage sale began around that time on Village Green Drive, in the association’s core territory.

The group bans homeowners from posting signs to advertise.

Todd said he believes the garage sale came about as a response to the strong controls. Holding a number of yard sales on the same day also makes for a better turnout, he said.

“It gets the mess and fuss over with,” Heine said.

The association wanted homeowners to be able to have the sales but in an organized way, she said. It now ignores sign violations on sale day.

At least half of the group’s 10,000 residents, are setting up to take part this year, Heine said.

“There are incredible things you can buy here,” she said. “We have a really interesting neighborhood where people have been to a lot of places around the world.”

Mill Creek boasts a median household income of just under $90,000 a year. An average home costs $415,000, according to census data.

Many community groups get in on the action as a way of fundraising.

Goodwill brings donation trailers to the association’s parking lot. After the sale, homeowners can get rid of items that didn’t move.

“They find it’s one of the best pickups all year,” Heine said.

The garage sale used to be a weekend-long ordeal. The homeowners group several years ago put its foot down to limit the event to Saturday only. Some rallied to bring the two-day sale back but others were happy setting up once, Todd said.

Over the years, the city has attempted to control traffic and parking problems that result from deal-seekers flooding the area. Todd said the efforts were costly and cumbersome. They also weren’t enforceable.

The city reined in promotion of the event. Todd said the traffic issues have since faded from nearly impossible to very busy.

Mayor Pam Pruitt said the event brings hundreds of people into the city. The Mill Creek resident since 1980 said she believes the garage sale is the largest in the area.

“You can pick up absolute bargains,” she said. “It’s the day you walk out of your house and the mall is the street in front of you.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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