If you stopped by the grandstand Monday morning, it was clear the party was over. Bleary-eyed volunteers were disassembling and packing up the thousands of bits and pieces that make the Friends School Plant Sale run smoothly each year.

Everything must be disassembled, loaded on trucks, and stored for another year.

It takes over a thousand volunteers to make the Plant Sale happen – some of whom work year round organizing, ordering plants, and finding ways to make next year’s sale even better.

The info table is one place during the sale where you will find devoted volunteers who work year round organizing the fundraiser.
Plant sale volunteers return year after year to work their favorite jobs.
Plant sale volunteers like John, Rory, and Bear return year after year to work their favorite jobs.
Friends School families volunteer together - like Wendy and FSMN alumnus Tate.

I am not one of the core organizers but, like most folks at Friends School of Minnesota, I put in some hours. This year, I first popped over to the State Fair Grandstand Building on Thursday to see if there was a quick job. Tina, our plant sale coordinator, asked me to build the exit ramp.

I admit I had no idea what Tina was talking about. I had never noticed an exit ramp. It was just one tiny element of the fundraiser’s complex infrastructure. Like most things, if done well, it would probably go completely unnoticed.

Tina pointed to a large, uneven cement bump on the threshold of the grandstand’s west door. Such a step up would likely prevent a graceful exit by anyone daydreaming about their gardens or driving a laden shopping cart. Tina introduced me to two sheets of worn plywood leaning by the back door and left me to it.

I recruited my 7th grade son who was there volunteering with the FSMN middle school. About thirty minutes and a whole lot of duct tape later, we had ourselves a sturdy ramp.

The ramp my son and I installed.

We hoped our ramp would survive the thousands of feet and plant-filled wagons that would traverse it over the next four days. If our ramp functioned properly, no one would even notice it was there.

Shoppers and shopping carts wait patiently for the sale to open.
Over 15,000 shoppers come to the Friends School Plant Sale for over 2,300 kinds of plants.

I spent the remainder of my volunteer shifts out in the sunshine of the garden fair greeting shoppers. It was  a grand weekend with glorious spring weather! While I worked, I thought about the ramp I built.

The exit ramp at the Plant Sale is installed for practical reasons. But I like that it also leads plant lovers out of the frenetic excitement of the sale and back to the quiet serenity of our gardens. Ramps gently ease our way, eliminating barriers and allowing freedom of movement.

The Friends School Plant Sale itself is a vital ramp for the school. It connects the school and the greater community. Most importantly, this fundraiser raises money equal to over half our need-based tuition aid budget – making the school accessible to students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

Friends School of Minnesota 2011-12

The Plant Sale is a ramp that eases the passage between our Quaker values of equality, integrity, and justice and the necessity of being a tuition school. If our ramp functions properly, no one will even notice it is there.

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers and shoppers who helped make the 2012 Friends School Plant Sale a success.

See you next year!

– Susan A. Nagel, Admissions Director

See you next year, May 10 to 12 (2013)