By Heather Regula, Correspondent
The annual Bell County Museum Garage Sale was held at the Bell County Expo Center, 301 W. Loop 121 in Belton, from 9 am-4 pm on Saturday, March 18. Admission was $3 for adults, $1 off for active duty military with ID, and children 12 and under were free.
“People were lined up outside of The Expo Center, starting at about 8:15 am and we saw about 400 people come through the doors in the first hour,” said Amy Thomas, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Bell County Museum. “We usually have between 2,500 and 3,000 show up each year and it looks like we will see about the same amount this year. The Expo Center is centrally located and serves as the perfect location for this event. It’s so nice to see vendors visiting with each other and everyone enjoying themselves here. I hope people realize the money the museum makes off this garage sale goes to augment all that the museum does for the public.”
“The Bell County Museum Garage Sale was started by Stephanie Turnham, former Director of the museum, in the mid-1990’s,” explained Coleman Hampton, Director of the Bell County Museum. “This year, 65-70 vendors signed up. Each vendor pays a $50 fee for a 9’x10’ spot. Some vendors signed up for two or three spots. A table and chair rental service was provided to vendors – tables could be rented for $5 and chairs for $1. Funds raised for the museum for this event come from admission fees and vendor fees. We really want this to be a good experience for everyone – we want vendors to be successful, visitors to enjoy themselves while browsing and interacting with each other, and for this to be a great way to showcase Belton. Last year’s garage sale netted $8,871 and we are hoping for similar results this year.”
Dusty Muldin was born and raised in Temple, Texas. “I’m a seller, not a collector,” explained Muldin. He and his wife Crystal live in Little River-Academy and had their booth set up at the Bell County Museum Garage Sale on Saturday. The Muldins have a website, www.crittersville.com, where they sell personalized pet ID tags, magnets, buttons, personalized t-shirts and more. Some of these items were available for sale at their booth. They were also selling some items they’ve rescued from the certain fate of being thrown away. “A lot of vendors here, like myself, are rescuers. We see things that people are probably going to end up throwing away and we can’t stand that idea. So we rescue those items, wash them, clean them up, and help find a new home for them by bringing them to events like this” said Muldin. He offered this refreshing perspective in regards to a stuffed lion he was selling for a few dollars.
“I got this at a garage sale, washed him, trimmed the fur from around his eyes a bit and now he’s ready for a new home. If I hadn’t rescued the lion, it might’ve ended up in the trash. Now the lions ready for a new life and to make someone happy.” Dusty Muldin rescued an old, and at the time inoperable, sewing machine by purchasing it from another vendor. He took the sewing machine home, cleaned it up, and was able to get it working again within a few hours. He plans on finding a new home for it soon. “Think about the word ‘distribution’, which means to make something available for a consumer. Then think about the word ‘redistribution’, which means to distribute something in a different way. That is exactly what we are doing here.”
Connie Swinden is a volunteer at the Belton Senior Activities Center and Director of Citizens for Soldiers – a project that sends care packages and cards to deployed soldiers. “Today I am selling Beanie Babies and a few other things. I have also placed a donation box on the table. All money made today will go towards putting together and mailing care packages to soldiers deployed overseas, primarily in Afghanistan” said Swinden. “Most people don’t realize that it costs about $20 to mail a standard sized box. A lot of our money comes in through donations. We always need contributions, whether it’s snack items or cash. We particularly need tooth brushes right now. You can drop all of the donations off at the Belton Senior Activity Center. If you’d like to volunteer to help package the care packages or make care cards, please contact Connie Swinden at 254-239-7428.”
The Kiwanis Club of Belton occupied booth space and was selling donated items at Saturday’s event. “All items have been donated and the money raised will go towards scholarships and programs. The Kiwanis Club of Belton recently received the BISD Community Partner of the Year Award for 2016-2017. We support service leadership programs, primarily in schools. Our club has been taking part in the Bell County Museum Garage Sale for about ten years and we usually raise anywhere between $800-$1,000” said Monte Fellingham, President of the Kiwanis Club of Belton.
Hardy Ingram, of Hardy’s Workshop of Copperas Cove, filled his booth space with various wood items he had created. “I’ve been a vendor at this event since it first started and this is my 20th year coming to The Bell County Museum Garage Sale. I have been in the word-working business for 35 years and my work is sold in The Exchange in Belton, The Trading Post in Copperas Cove, Marigold’s in Lampasas and The Knot Hole in Burnet. I’m probably one of the few vendors here who are the original crew from this first started” Ingram said.
The Garage Sale brought out shoppers and garage sale enthusiasts from all over. Sandra Hudson, of Harker Heights, and her recently rescued six week old Great Pyranese puppy named Gentle Ben were there. “I have been coming to this event for several years. Today I am just looking around, not shopping for anything in particular” said Hudson. Luz and Angel Morales, of Killeen, and their 8-year-old Chihuahua, Mya, were attending for the 13th year in a row. “Literally every year they have this garage sale, we come. We have been coming to this event for as long as we have lived here. We always come to look around and every year we seem to find something that we want or need” said Angel Morales. This year the couple purchased an aged metal tool carrier, an old tin bucket, and a chair.
“All money raised by the garage sale goes directly towards traveling exhibits and other programs that are free to the public to enjoy. These programs showcase culture, history, and art at the museum. The museum normally has two permanent exhibits and two traveling exhibits,” explained Director Coleman Hampton. “This will be a big year for the museum as we have a lot of great exhibits coming up,” said Hampton. The upcoming “Harley-Davidson” exhibit will run from March 25, 2017, through May 20, 2017. There will be several vintage motorcycles and a modern day motorcycle on display. “Trench Art” will feature art made from large WWI shell casings and will run from June 1, through August 12. “We are working on an in-house exhibit – Bell County in WWI. It will be a celebration of Bell County-ians who served in WWI – overseas and at home. We want to recognize civilians and soldiers from Bell County who served in the war. This exhibit will be on display from August 14, through October 18.” The “Dance Theater of Harlem” will be a unique exhibit and will be on display November 11, 2017, through February 4, 2018.
The museum has a lot to offer. The curator of the museum is Mikaela Young. “One of our permanent exhibits is ‘Passport Through Time’ – it contains approximately 1300 artifacts from the estate of Miriam (Ma) Ferguson, the first female governor of Texas. ‘Creation of the County’ has information and photographs of Bell County’s history – from the first Native Americans, to Anglo settlers, through the Civil War and more recent years. ‘WWII Creation of Camp Hood’ (later to become Fort Hood) features information from several people in Bell County who served in WWII” said Young.
Kayte Ricketts is the Bell County Museum Education Coordinator and a great resource to educators. “Field trips and group tours are free and I can help schedule them. There is a $50 bus grant (per bus) that schools can apply for to offset the cost of transportation. The bus grant form is available online and turned in on the day of the field trip. There is usually a two week turn around on the grant application and grant money is then sent to the school” Ricketts said. The museum has Traveling Educator Trunks that are free for educators to check out for two weeks from the museum. “These trunks are TEKS aligned and right now aimed at K-8th grades. The trunks come with items for teachers to display in their classrooms, a binder with lesson plans and games to help integrate the items into the classroom. I can even come out to classrooms and present the trunks to the class, then help the teacher find ways to integrate them. I am working on extending the Traveling Educator Trunks to reach high school students and those should be available in August.” The museum will be hosting an Educator Day on June 7, where teachers in the county can come out and see all that the museum has to offer.
Everyone is invited to help make the museum better by becoming a member of Friends of the Bell County Museum. The membership form is available on the museum’s website, bellcountymuseum.org, or by contacting the museum directly for more information. The Bell County Museum is located at 201 N. Main St. in Belton and is open from 12 pm-5 pm Tuesday-Friday and 10 am-5 pm on Saturday. Their phone number is (254) 933-5243.
“We strive every day to be a museum for people from all walks of life. It is a great place to come and learn about the history of Bell County. When people have a strong grasp on the history of their community, it ends up being very meaningful” said Director Coleman Hampton.