Somewhere amid the stacks of CDs, sweaters and kitchenware — not to mention a pile of mint-condition ceramic fruit — Connie Workman knew the perfect holiday present lay in wait.
The trouble was finding it.
"It's fascinating," said Workman, who brought her granddaughter Katie in tow to the eighth annual Ashland Abundance Swap. "There are so many things. I don't know what we're going to get."
The Workmans were just two of more than 100 residents who piled into the Historic Ashland Armory on Sunday afternoon to buy and barter at the event, which has become a local holiday tradition.
"We are delighted to mark the beginning of the gift season this way," Abundance Swap coordinator Jeff Golden said as he greeted visitors while they entered the armory's main hall. "This has come to be a very special event."
Visitors from around the valley brought their new, used and handmade items to the armory, in the hopes of exchanging them as gifts. Hundreds of dollars worth of items were exchanged among community members — though no money changed hands.
"No cash," Golden repeated to the hordes of gift-hungry shoppers, walking between tables filled with excess items, books, videos, toys and more.
"There are lots of interesting things," Medford resident Anita Winstrom said. "I figured it would be worth it to come into town, and bring some old things."
Each guest was encouraged to bring several items from home — items no longer of use to their owners, but ones that could brighten someone else's holiday season.
The event is a showcase in resourcefulness, Golden said, with guests trading away the things they don't need and replacing them, effectively turning one person's trash into another's treasure.
"People like to give during the holidays," Golden said. "This is a way to celebrate our community and the fact that we have so much. It's also an alternative to the massive, almost frantic consumption that still takes place."
Everyone entering the swap was given a color-coded name tag. Guests were invited to cruise through the main hall, checking out items while their name tag color was called. After their allotted time ended, they returned to their own items, in case someone else should want to exchange for them.
Ashland resident Eileen Wineberg said she was pleased to see such a practical idea implemented on a wide scale.
"We have so much stuff in our homes," she said. "This is just such a great way to try and disperse of some of it."
After more than an hour of exchanging, families left the armory mostly satisfied, with new gifts to give to friends and family.
"I think we did pretty well," said Mark Learner, carrying a bag filled with children's toys.
Like Learner, Caroline Morse came to the Abundance Swap looking for a holiday present for her grandson. Taking a break from checking out teddy bears of various sizes, Morse could not hold back her enthusiasm for the event, which brings out the giving nature in people of all ages.
"This is a wonderful thing," she said.
Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at email@example.com.