Forty years ago on a Saturday morning, eight shoppers wandered around three market stalls in the country town of Eumundi, spending a total of $30. This Saturday morning, 23 March 2019, thousands of people from around Australia and the world will wander among more than 250 stalls as the Original Eumundi Markets celebrates four decades of continuous operation.
It started with two friends, ceramic artist Christa Barton and her friend Gail Perry-Somers who came up with the idea of holding a European-style artisans and farmers market in their local CWA (Country Women’s Association) hall – they wanted to create a place where local farmers, artists and craftspeople could sell their wares, and where young local people could develop skills in handicrafts and preparing food. Refreshments were served in the CWA Hall.
When the market started, Eumundi was a small, quiet town of one main street with farms spreading from Belli to Noosaville. The social calendar still included dances in the School of Arts Hall and regular cattle and horse sales.
After that first day, on Saturday 24 March 1979, Eumundi’s openness, sense of community and promise of a simpler way of life continued to attract stall holders who offered visitors locally made, unique goods that they could take home as a reminder of their visit to the little hinterland town, just 20 minutes from Noosa Heads.
The CWA Hall served as a refreshment room where market visitors could indulge in home-baked goodies, exotic foods, fresh juices or a soothing cuppa. Outside, Eumundi’s magnificent Memorial Trees, dedicated to the 20 World War I diggers who died in the war, provided a cool place to relax.
After only one year of operation, the Original Eumundi Market gained a reputation as a source of energy, variety, freshness and friendliness, properties that still characterise it today. But it was the policy of the markets’ founders and original guiding body, the Eumundi Historical Society (now the Eumundi Historical Association), led by Valmay Templeton, that made it unique: All goods had to be locally made.
AS THE MARKET GREW
By 1985, the Original Eumundi Markets had 97 stalls, with an estimated attendance of 143,000 people for the year. By 1990, it had grown to 203 stalls with 260,000 visitors for the year. The customer base grew from mostly locals to include visitors to the Sunshine Coast, and by the early 1990s, it had become a ‘must do’ for interstate and overseas visitors holidaying in the region, and people looking for a day out.
In 2002, the Original Eumundi Market expanded from one day a week (Saturday) to also operate on Wednesdays.
THE EUMUNDI MARKETS TODAY
More than 1.2 million people from around Australia and the world now come to the Original Eumundi Markets each year to meet the talented hands behind handcrafted furniture, homewares, artworks, ceramics, cutting-edge fashion and jewellery; to chat to the farmers and bakers selling fresh produce and gourmet delights; and to rejuvenate with a massage, have their palm read or hear great live music and watch the street performers.
With other markets popping up next to the Original Eumundi Markets over the years, the overall precinct is now regarded as the biggest art and craft market in Australia.
The Original Eumundi Markets continue to be run by the Eumundi & District Historical Association, a not-for-profit association that supports local community and historic projects, and ensures that the markets have an emphasis on handmade products, with the ethos of “make it, bake it, sew it, grow it”.
40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
The Original Eumundi Markets kicked off the 40th anniversary celebrations last month with 40 days of 40 prizes. This Saturday, 23 March, there’ll be more giveaways, live music and street performers, and stallholders will celebrate with a party after the markets.
Nickelby The Magician will perform at 10am and noon; Tristen Bird will share his stories of the Australian countryside and introduce eclectic characters along the way at the Food Hub on Second Terrace from 9am; and live looping rock violinist Lawrence Gratton performs classic themes to rock anthems with violin, guitar and stompbox.
THE FIRST 40 YEARS EXHIBITION
The Discover Eumundi Heritage and Visitor Centre which is run by the Eumundi & District Historical Association, has a wonderful ‘then and now’ exhibition of the markets’ history, opening this Saturday 23 March in the Wan’din’in arts space. The exhibition, which continues until 1 June, has a mock-up of stalls from the 1980s; a collection of objects made by stallholders from the 1980s to today; photos and information from the markets’ history; and recorded recollections of early market days. You can even leave your own memories on the market memory board.
All are welcome to the opening at 2pm, but please RSVP by 20 March by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Or click here.
The First 40 Years Exhibition is at The Discover Eumundi Heritage and Visitor Centre, 73 Memorial Drive, Eumundi, open Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.
The Original Eumundi Markets are at 80 Memorial Drive, Eumundi, open every Wednesday from 8am to 1.30pm, and every Saturday from 7am to 2pm.