Two women wearing hats and sunglasses sat in the narrow strip of shade outside a tent roped off with yellow police tape. Sandy Gogel and Randi Walsh had been waiting since 6:30 a.m. on Sunday for the annual Chicken Alley Thrift Shop Art and Collectibles Sale. It was noon. The sale would open at 1 p.m.

Annual Thrift Shop fundraiser benefits Martha's Vineyard Community Services. — Ray Ewing

“We always bring reading material but we never end up needing it,” Ms. Walsh said. As the clouds burned off and sticky sunshine poured down on the treasure-hunters, there were plenty of people to chat with.

The Chicken Alley Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven is a fundraising operation for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, a network of organizations that help thousands of Islanders and visitors every year, from infants to the elderly. The Chicken Alley Art sale was begun in 2002 by Olga Hirshhorn and remains the shop’s single largest fundraiser. Last year the event, which includes a fashion show on the preceding Friday, raised about $70,000.

But how often do people start lining up so early morning before the sale? “Every year,” said assistant manager Jessica Tartell, who reported that shoppers usually arrive around 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. “There’s both the prestige of being first, the tradition of being first,” she said, “but also the excitement of knowing that they’re going to see the beginning, the very best right away.”

The collection of high-end items on sale had been donated to the Thrift Shop by collectors and artists throughout the year. Shopworkers Barbara Thorton and Libby Barringer are the appraisal team — jewelry, clothing, art, and vintage pieces are all priced at about a quarter to a third of the retail value.

With half an hour to go until the opening, store manager Marshall Pratt was already sweating. Mr. Pratt pointed out a few of his favorites as he hustled around the room. “We have a brass Gucci kiwi,” he said, pointing to a metal bird several inches tall. “There are a few Ray Ellis prints that I don’t expect to last long.”

Browsing for bargains. — Ray Ewing

He became manager in January after 12 years as a volunteer. As to why the sale draws such attention, Mr. Pratt said the answer is twofold.

Number one: “We make the art accessible. Most of us aren’t in the right tax bracket to buy originals,” he said. And then of course there’s the good cause. “One hundred per cent of the proceeds go to Community Services,” Mr. Pratt said.

Two oriental rugs had been clipped with certificates from Khouri’s, the industry authority. One was valued at $9,300 but priced at $2,200. “These are the best deals around,” said Ms. Tartell. “Far better than you’re going to find at a flea market.”

She added: “People donating on the Island are incredibly generous. When they donate their items, they have this event in mind. It becomes a prestige thing to have your donations in Chicken Alley.”

A few minutes before 1 p.m., Ms. Gogel and Ms. Walsh folded up their chairs and stood at attention. Ms. Gogel, a five-year sale veteran, said her favorite find from a previous year was a photograph of rusty chains by an Island artist. “We’re happy to spend money here because it goes to a good cause,” she said.

At 12:59, the tape came down. A wave of men, women and children poured into the tent. They wove around seven baby cribs that had been repurposed as art storage and through shelves of canvases. “It’s the closest thing we have to Black Friday on Martha’s Vineyard,” said a volunteer. “It’s like Filene’s Running of the Brides,” said another.

Only a few minutes passed before a woman waddled a five-foot tall mounted snakeskin to the cashier. Shortly after, another woman carted out a wooden xylophone. Mr. Pratt stood back and watched. “I’m pretty used to the crowds,” he said.

The Thrift Shop staff works many long days leading up to the event. And when the sale is over? “The process resets instantly,” Mr. Pratt said.

Volunteer crew celebrates another year, another job well done. — Ray Ewing

By 4 p.m. the crowd had thinned, though there was another smaller rush right before closing. The sale ended at 5 p.m. but leftover items would still be available throughout the store until Wednesday, Ms. Tartell said, looking a little tired.

“There’s that anticipation before when we’re working so, so hard,” she said by phone on Monday. “To have it over is wonderful. It’s an incredible feeling to see the love that people have for this community and for what we’re doing.”

Ms. Tartell estimated the crowd was comparable to last year’s but said final numbers were still being tallied. “What is hard in this job is that there’s no consistencies, our inventory is never consistent. We’re not the Gap. It’s hard to quantify those numbers.”

What was clear was the crowd’s enthusiasm for supporting the Thrift Store and Community Services, with the significant bonus of access to some plum finds.

“It’s such a wonderful event,” Ms. Tartell said. “I think humbling is the right word.”