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Can you dance with your best trash find?

Massachusetts recyclers celebrate reuse -- and the joy of a great score -- with an annual Trash Finders Ball.

By Teresa Mears Feb 26, 2010 6:10PM

We’re found a ball that Cinderella could attend without needing a fairy godmother to whip her up a new dress.


The annual Trash Finders Ball in Massachusetts, in its third year this weekend, celebrates recycling in a big way. If your dress is made of old newspaper, so much the better. The décor, of course, is also from recycled objects.


But the Trash Finders in Beverly, Mass., don’t just wear recycled outfits and parade around in a Trashion Show.


They also bring along their best trash-picking find for judging.


"Our whole house is either a yard sale find or trash find," ball organizer Sean Devlin told The Salem News last year. His best find -- at least at the time Susan Flynn interviewed him in advance of last year’s ball -- was a vintage Wurlitzer organ set out on the curb. After he managed to get all 391 pounds home and start playing, he heard a knock on his door. It was the neighbor from several blocks away, who had followed the sound. He had forgotten to put out the bench.


Stories like these are also part of the Trash Finders Ball.

Once the five finalists for Trash King or Queen are chosen, each gets up to tell the story of his or her find. The winner is serenaded with “Secondhand Rose.” Tickets are $10 each and include junk food and coffee. In addition to raising consciousness about recycling and reuse, the event raises money for a local charity.


January O’Neill, the Poet Mom, attended last year’s ball, which drew about 150 people, and has a photo gallery that includes a photo of her in the skirt she made of shredded copies of O Magazine.

The ball has gotten such a great response that Devlin and his friend Kevin Carey, a filmmaker, made a documentary, “The Trashfinders’ Ball.” We couldn’t find it on Netflix, but it has been shown in Massachusetts and at a few film festivals.


Jennifer Jean of North Shore Art Throb turned down her invitations to the first two balls. “It was because they said it would be fun,” she wrote. “Fun? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I get ‘Repurposing.’ My son learned this nifty mantra back in preschool: ‘Reuse Reduce Recycle’ (ad nauseam). So, yeah our household’s all into Repurposing. It’s one of those ‘right things to do’ or else get lectured by your first grader -- oh, and live on a totally trashed earth. Still -- making a repurposing event ‘fun’ seemed improbable. Also, a kooky, trashy dress ‘ball’ with a so-called ‘Trashion Show’ just didn’t sound appropriately solemn for something as super serious as Repurposing.”


We expect she’ll attend Saturday, persuaded by the documentary, which she described as “a giggle-worthy, vaudevillian showcase of a unique subculture by way of community organizing.”


Plus, she likes the answer the volunteers gave when they were asked what word best describes the trash-finding culture: subversive.


And she has this great little red and black beaded coin purse she found outside a house in a box marked “free.”


My best trash find was a set of four vintage rattan chairs dumped in the median across the street from my house, even though I never did get around to reupholstering them. What’s your best trash find story? Did you feel subversive?


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