Portage resident Diane Curtis says fellow community members should watch out for flying pigs.
She sold several decorative models depicting hogs with wings this past weekend during a three-day-long garage sales event citywide.
“People might want to watch the air space in town,” Curtis joked.
Curtis said she recently decided to stop collecting the artwork and sell other items after she did some spring cleaning at her East Slifer Street apartment. She also got rid of some old office supplies now that she’s retired.
“I’ve got a book, I’ve got a shady spot. I’m set,” Curtis said.
All over the city of Portage, residents mingled over old clothes, antiques, collectibles and other odds and ends on one of the first weekends of peak summer season.
Every was loaded with lifetimes of memories, many items having unique backstories of how the sellers got them.
Just across the road from Curtis’ apartment on the 500 block of East Slifer Street, Dorothy Russell greeted people as they stopped into her garage looking for model train sets.
Russell said she gave away all her model trains to family members a while back, but she’s sold numerous railroad signs and other antiques since she began taking part in the garage sales weekend in 2008.
Fellow community members and customers come from cities all over the region, including Baraboo and Sauk City.
“I have a fun time doing it. You meet a lot of nice people,” Russell said. “It’s a very giving town. There’s always some activities out there.”
She and her dearly departed husband ran a farm together until 1976 before moving to Portage. After the move, her husband worked as a railroad engineer for 34 years.
“We worked together as a team on everything,” she said.
Russell is an avid volunteer for United Methodist Church in Portage. She said she planned to donate some of her garage sales proceeds to various local charities, including a children's library and the Columbia County Humane Society.
At their house along Silver Lake Drive, Kay Blankenheim and her husband, James, sold used name brand clothing, kitchen utensils, wicker furniture, PlayStation video game systems and music albums from the 1970s.
Kay Blankenheim said they also sold at least 10 suitcases, and she joked her husband was the culprit of having so many.
“This has always been a hot spot,” she said, as community members filtered in and out of her driveway on their way to visit Silver Lake beach just down the block.
Kay Blankenheim said she and her husband used to own a restaurant in town called Blaknenhaus, before they decided to close shop and pursue other ventures locally.
“I love sales, selling people stuff they’ll enjoy at a good price,” she said.
Across the street from Pauquette Park on West Conant Street, Jerry Rosenau said he sold lots of jewelry, old clothes, antiques and typical midwestern household items while enjoying a beautiful day outside.
“Best garage sale I’ve ever done, by far. Perfect weather,” Rosenau said.
A woman bought three sets of cooking sheets from Rosenau for just $1.50. She mentioned she was excited to make peanut butter cups for her and her husband.
“People are looking for bargains,” Rosenau said, adding for many community members, garage sales are fun because of the thrill of the hunt.
Rosenau, a Vietnam War veteran, appreciates the historical significance of three blue wooden signs engraved simply with the following words: Guadalcanal, Saipan and Bataan.
Each were key island locations during the U.S. island-hopping campaign of battling the Japanese Empire during World War II.
“Somebody took a lot of time and love and effort to making them,” he said.
Rosenau said part of why he likes hosting garage sales is because every item has some sort of history and can tell people about the lifestyles of the people who sold of crafted them.
The flying pig decorations Curtis sold over the weekend had many nuanced names:
- One was dubbed Amelia, after aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly over the Atlantic.
- Another was called Francis Gary Powers, in honor of a U.S. pilot whose craft was shot down in Russia while running a reconnaissance mission during the Cold War.
- Two other flying pig decorations were named Orville and Wilbur, after the Wright brothers — who together invented the world’s first airplane.
Curtis said she enjoys hosting garage sales because it offers an opportunity to meet new, interesting people. Sometimes she’ll chat with customers about vacation destinations and find out they have mutual friends and family by chance.
She was born and raised in Portage and worked in Madison and the twin cities in Minnesota for many years. And the local community along the Wisconsin River has a certain draw to it for her.
“I never expected to come back to Portage, and now I think I’ll stay,” Curtis said.
Editor's note: This article was revised June 10 to clarify information regarding Portage resident Dorothy Russell's volunteer service.