Customers of the Times Colonist book sale flocked to the Victoria Curling Club as they returned to a favorite event last held in 2019 before the pandemic on Saturday.
Eyes shining with anticipation, many said “Thank you” to the volunteers who play a vital role in organizing the popular literacy fundraiser.
Chief Volunteer Coordinator Mark Taylor shouted “Welcome” as people entered the building.
The first people lined up before midnight, but hundreds more arrived after 7 a.m., sending the line down Pembroke Street and meandering through the adjacent parking lot. Doors opened at 9 a.m.
Despite a light morning drizzle, “the lineup was the longest I can remember,” a delighted Taylor said.
About 500 people are allowed in the building at a time. All ages showed up – from mums with babies to youngsters checking out the upstairs children’s section to seniors with walkers, assisted by volunteers if needed.
Volunteers have distributed maps to customers so that they can find their way between the tables, which are more separated than usual for sanitary reasons.
“Most people are wearing masks, which is fantastic,” Taylor said.
Masks were available inside the building, and Times Colonist columnist Jack Knox walked along the outdoor range offering masks.
About 150 volunteers wearing lime green t-shirts were there in the morning and more arrived on Saturday afternoon.
Many shoppers brought their own boxes, rolling carts and suitcases for their purchases.
Sascha Martens was on the front line for the Times Colonist book sale on Saturday morning, patiently waiting for the doors to open at 9am.
He staked his place at the front door of 1952 Quadra St. at 11:30 p.m. Friday night and hid in a blue sleeping bag on a yellow rug. When he stepped outside shortly after 5 a.m. on Saturday, Martens, 38, said he had brought blankets and was wearing thermal underwear – with extra sets on hand.
He had a good night’s sleep, he said, but still, “it’s cold; it was a cold spring.
Inside the gates are around half a million books and with prizes ranging from $1 to $3, Martens was keen to get the first crack.
The sale takes place on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Martens buys for himself, but the lineup (about 50 people at 5 a.m.) also included local booksellers and residents of the Lower Mainland and Washington state, as well as teachers who bought for their classrooms. .
Why camp at night? “Just for fun, most of the time,” Martens said.
He was looking for early science fiction and fantasy books for his personal collection and estimated he would spend around $50.
Early risers came prepared. Several slept through the night in sleeping bags on the grass. They brought blankets, folding chairs, snacks and, if they were lucky, a friend brought them a hot breakfast and coffee.
Despite some light rain overnight and a damp chill in the air, no one complained in the countdown to the start of the sale.
As the day grew brighter and the streetlights went out, some walked along the sidewalk to stretch their legs. Others sat and read books. Some knitted. Many chatted. Some groggy buyers simply sat with their eyes closed.
Many came with friends. They brought carts and wheeled suitcases to pack books.
One particularly cheerful group was made up of six elementary and middle school teachers, who all worked together at the same school when they started out.
Attending the book sale is a tradition, they said seated in a circle of chairs, covered in blankets and sleeping bags on Quadra Street.
Books are free for teachers and nonprofit groups on Mondays, but these friends like to get together for sale and have lists of what they’re looking for. The students made special requests.
They carpooled from the West Rim. Sam Park joked, “I’m here as a bookkeeper – I have to stop people from buying too many books.” Friend Caitlyn Sabyan fired back, saying, “It’s a lost cause,” to get the group laughing.
Everyone brought suitcases to fill with books.
Grade 4 teacher Rebecca Moore said she had pre-planned which sections she would head to so she had first choice.
Around the corner from Pembroke Street, teacher Tina Ng planned to walk through the children’s section. She came with a friend, a school librarian. Ng is grateful that book sales are back. “We missed it.”
Second in line was held by Joshua Chan, 22, of Burnaby, who showed up at 11:45 p.m. Friday. He spent part of the night sleeping in his car because of the cold.
He sells books online through Amazon and was mainly looking for graphic novels and non-fiction books.
Her dream find? A first edition of The old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
Like the other booksellers of the line, it has a scanner to obtain an instant estimate.
The books from the sale are all donated and the proceeds from the sale are used to support literacy. This is the first sale since the pandemic caused the sale and other major events to be postponed for two years.
Sarah Sawatsky, 37, who was buying for herself, worked out her strategy in advance. Waiting on Pembroke Street at 6.30am, she wore trainers for a scheduled hours-long session. She planned to return on Sunday.
First section, she okay? “Always science fiction first.” Then cookbooks and then “I’m going to run to poetry” followed by regular fiction.
Sawatsky is a dedicated buyer for selling TC books. “This is my highlight of the year. I’m an avid reader and book collector.
Joel Nugent, 45, a bookseller, came to the sale from Bellingham, Washington. He was alone. “I offered my daughter $200 to come and help me.” She has passed. He thinks he slept four hours.
He traveled extensively to sell books, visiting places like New Jersey, Phoenix, and Toronto. “I would say it’s the best.”
Noah Cender, 22, of White Rock, joined the line at 1.30am on Saturday, sleeping in a bag on the floor. “I’m a deep sleeper so I haven’t really woken up.”
He heard that buyers would start lining up at 4 a.m. and said that because he was somewhat competitive he chose to sleep outside overnight to get a good spot in the range.
Cender was looking for non-fiction books on business and health.