ROCKLAND, Maine — It’s a little stressful in the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce office this week.
Jewelry, paintings, dog toys and saltwater taffy clutter all the tables, for one thing.
The organization, which recently combined Camden- and Rockland-area chambers, is still working on restructuring everything: websites, telephone systems, databases, Facebook accounts, and on and on.
But the show — the Chamber’s 32nd annual auction — must go on. The benefit rakes in $18,000 or so each year, making it one of the biggest fundraisers for the organization, which supports 1,100 midcoast businesses.
The merger has helped in some ways. The auction used to be primarily Rockland-area businesses donating. With 400 or so more businesses from Camden and Lincolnville now part of the regional Chamber, additional donations have come in. Of the 266 items offered this year, 30 are from new businesses.
Shari Closter, director of operations for the midcoast Chamber, is most taken by the jewelry.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she said, picking up a tiny silver lobster gauge hanging from a silver chain.
Freedom Jewelers in Rockland made the very Maine necklace just for the auction. On the same table was a bucket of dog treats from Loyal Biscuit and a stack of fluffy towels.
In total, the Chamber has $48,000 worth of items to sell to the highest bidder in both an online and a live auction. Most of the items were sold online for the highest offers at the end of bidding at 9 p.m. Monday. More than $12,500 had been bid for items already by early Monday evening.
Another 100 items or so, however, remain to be auctioned live beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Rockland Elks Lodge. Potential bidders can preview the items from 5 to 6 p.m. Interested bidders who can’t make the live event on Friday can still make their best offer on some of the items online at http://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/AuctionHome.action?auctionId=137216375.
Aside from a Fisher snowplow, which always gets hands flying up at the live auction, Closter is betting on a Wyeth-inspired painting by Ronald Frontin to be one of the top earners this year.
Frontin, of Rockland, donated a print of his painting “Dead at 91,” which boasts an estimated value of $1,100.
“It’s his tribute to Andrew Wyeth. This tree is in South Thomaston,” Closter said, pointing to the print of a tree.
The style is clearly Wyeth-inspired, with its simplistic realism of a Maine scene and its shadow play.
Closter stressed that the live auction on Friday will be “down-to-earth and casual. We want people who live and work here to come.”
Bruce Gamage will be the auctioneer this year, just like he has been for the past 30 or so Chamber auctions.
“I’ve been at this for 41 years. It’s not my first rodeo,” the professional auctioneer said Monday.
“The Chamber auction is always a fun time. Everyone is there to support the Chambers. Things sell for more than they should — probably because they want to support the Chamber,” Gamage said. “You don’t need to be in the collector business or anything like that to come, you just need to be a person who needs things in their life. You might get two hours of a plumber for $10 or maybe $50, but everyone donates their time and it’s fun. It’s very lighthearted.”