COLUMBIA — It’s 4:30 Saturday morning, still dark. A heavy fog hovers above the bleachers of Memorial Stadium. The only noises are birds chirping, streetlights buzzing and the fading sound of cars passing. A car pulls up, and a woman in a yellow volunteer shirt gets out. It’s Janet Kimmons, a volunteer coordinator with the Salvation Army, who showed up early, expecting a crowd.
“They’ll show up anytime now,” Kimmons said.
And they did.
Most said they came for bargains or were shopping for school. Others cited “insomnia and idiocy” or said the “early bird gets the worm.”
MU student Ray Mitchell and Pooneh Bagher, a post-doctoral fellow at MU, were the first members of what was soon to be a long line.
“Is there some garage sale thing here?” Mitchell said. The garage sale he asked about was Tiger Treasures, a rummage sale of items donated by MU students, collected in MU residence halls, Greek houses and university student apartments. The official start time was 7 a.m., but by 5:30 a.m. a line wrapping around the east side stands had already formed. Each of the early birds paid $5 to enter at 6 a.m.
Mitchell and Bagher didn’t have a problem waking up to be the first in line — they didn’t sleep. Mitchell heard about the sale from a co-worker at Eastside Tavern, where he got off his shift at 1:30 a.m. He and Bagher then killed time getting a late night breakfast at IHOP, and then Waffle House, before heading to Memorial Stadium.
They said they were bargain hunters and fans of thrift stores.
“Look at us,” Bagher said, describing hers and Mitchell’s thrift store clothes.
Columbia College student Meredith Green also showed up early with friends and said she liked bargains.
“I want the best picks,” said Green, who was hoping to find a TV and a coffee table, among other things.
But Green said her thriftiness is nothing compared to that of her aunt, who told Green about Tiger Treasures.
“She calls me every time she finds a garage sale,” Green said.
Boonville resident Helen Sutton described herself as a frequent garage saler. She said she goes to garage sales around Boonville almost every weekend, most times just to see what is available. Sutton runs a day care out of her home and said she finds a lot of toys for children.
“You never know what you’ll come across,” Sutton said.
When the time finally came for the early birds to enter, the line had amassed to about 800 people, Tiger Treasures coordinator Steve Burdic said. When the gate opened, the crowd rushed through, intent on finding the best items they could and beating others to the punch.
Inside, frenzied shoppers jogged between the various areas — clothing, appliances, electronics. Within minutes, almost every television, couch and refrigerator was claimed, and the people who failed to arrive sooner were the ones who suffered.
“You can’t get here early enough,” Columbia resident Steve Harris said.
Even the early birds couldn’t catch all the worms. Green found the coffee table, couch and television stand she wanted, but couldn’t reach the televisions before they were spoken for.
Burdic said the day was successful as both a recycling promotion and a community event.
“One of the things we worked on this year was making it a community event,” said Burdic, who is also MU’s coordinator of solid waste and recycling. “The takeaway for me is how happy the people are to come buy the stuff.”
Last year, the sale raised about $10,000 to donate to United Way. Official numbers will not be released for a few weeks, but Burdic said he expected about the same result as last year. By about 10 a.m., Burdic said 2,500 people came to the sale, with others trickling in after that.