NORTH SALEM, N.Y.--North Salem residents and visitors left St. James Episcopal Church last Saturday, July 29, with precious treasures in tow after the 59th annual Country Fair and Auction. They carried off antique clocks and porcelain dolls they had purchased during the six-hour event’s live auction, as well as special service packages, certificates and consultations at local establishments secured through a silent auction.

For those interested in a less-competitive experience, “The White Elephant” flea market, a special section marked with a cutout reflecting its namesake, offered visitors a $10 fill-a-bag incentive to collect odds and ends such as doorknobs, flasks, mugs and other items.

Larger items including records, kitchen appliances and furniture, all in great condition, were nestled in that section, as well. By the end of the day, one visitor left with a full dining set –a table and four chairs—for $40.

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Pam and Eric Pooley, along with their 5-year-old Labrador retriever Teddy, scored a desk for their daughter who is moving to Brooklyn this year at what they said was a “very reasonable” price.

Pam Pooley, a garden designer for Meadowworks, sold perennials during the event and said they were almost sold out by the end of the day.

Longtime co-chair of the event, Susie Margolin, said the event is the church’s largest fundraiser. All proceeds from t­­he day’s sales go to a family of Syrian refugees being sponsored by the church and a drug recovery center in Danbury, Conn.

Items for the sale and auction were donated by members of the community in the weeks leading up to the event. Whatever doesn’t sell is scooped up by other organizations, such as the Croton Falls Women’s Auxiliary, to sell at fundraisers of their own, Margolin said.

Aside from the financial support the church is able to provide to other organizations, Margolin said the event’s benefits are more than material.

“It’s a really fun community event,” she said. “Everybody donates things and then everybody buys stuff back. So it’s a perfect recycling system. We’re not a part of the throwaway culture.”

Additionally, she said, since the event in not affiliated with religion, it draws non-parishioners and those with infrequent Sunday attendance to join in the festivities. Town officials also join in, as did Councilman Martin Aronchick, who was spotted sporting one of the event volunteers’ yellow T-shirts and helping people load their cars.

“People come out of the woodwork,” she said. “This event is our exceptional connection with the community.”

While visitors such as the Pooleys and Aronchick, who said half of his house is furnished with auction-day finds, enjoy the discovery of reasonably priced treasures, Margolin said she and other organizers enjoy watching people in the act of discovery. 

“There are some things where we’re like, ‘Nobody is going to buy that,’ and then someone comes and sees it, pays full price and walks out happier than anything.”