The Eumundi Markets is one of the largest and most popular markets on the Sunshine Coast, and in Australia, featuring a range of products from talented local creatives, as well as food and drinks, massage stalls, palm reading, and live music and entertainment. But have you ever wondered how and when it all began?
In the 1970s, Eumundi was home to a plethora of artisans and craftspeople. In 1979, a local ceramic artist named Christa Barton, along with her friend Gail Perry-Somers had the excellent idea to hold a European-style ‘artisans and farmers’ market. They hoped to create a retail base for local farmers and locally crafted items, which could also help young people who were out of work to develop skills in food preparation and handicrafts.
The first Eumundi Market took place on 24th March 1979 at the CWA Hall. Whilst today the Eumundi Market hosts 600 stallholders and thousands of guests, the first market had just three stalls plus refreshments, and eight guests, making a turnover of $30.
Over time the markets grew, and in its first year of operation, it gained a reputation as a source of freshness, variety, energy, and friendliness, that it is still known for today. Furthermore, the ‘locally made’ policy that is still in place today was created by the original founders and the market’s supporting body, the Eumundi Historical Foundation.
By 1985, the market had progressed from just three stalls to 97, and it had become extremely popular amongst the locals, with attendance estimated at 143,000 visitors per year. Fast forward to 1990, and it had grown to host 203 stalls welcoming 260,000 annual visitors. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the market began to gain more interest from tourists, and those living further afield, as well as the locals who had loved it from the outset. Many city-dwellers began to enjoy the day trip from Brisbane for the sole purpose of indulging in retail therapy at the Eumundi Markets.
When the year 2000 rolled around, the market had 350 stalls, and due to increasing popularity, it was expanded to run on Wednesdays as well as Saturdays in 2002. Over the years, two more markets emerged on Wednesdays and Saturdays adjacent to the Original Eumundi Markets. This made the Eumundi Markets Australia’s largest arts and craft market, with over 600 stalls and 1.6 million annual visitors from the Sunshine Coast, the rest of Australia, and around the world.
On 23rd March 2019, the Original Eumundi Markets celebrated its 40th birthday party with an exhibition at the Eumundi heritage centre, showcasing objects, photographs, and documents relating to the history of the markets. Wan’din’in arts space also hosted ‘Market Memories’, where visitors could listen to long-term stallholders talk about their memories from the early days of the markets, including the trails, tribulations, and triumphs of being a stallholder, and why they do it.
Just like that first market day, the Original Eumundi Markets continue to focus on handmade products. Stallholders must pass the ‘make it, bake it, sew it, grow it’ test to ensure that all sale items are unique, locally made, high-quality, and eco-friendly. The markets host an ever-evolving collaboration of talented creatives, however, some have been there from near the start. For example, Cookie and Pete of Heritage Fine Foods have operated their stall since 1981.
In the future, the Eumundi Markets hope to become the best sustainable shopping experience in the world, and they have already taken steps to get there. They support plastic-free packaging materials, with all compostable waste processed in their worm farm. The local school then resells the organic fluids and castings produced to raise funds.
The original Eumundi Markets provided local artists, bakers, and farmers in this small, rural town with a hub to showcase their products. Locals were given a place to mingle and support their community, and Eumundi evolved from a town that not many people outside of the Sunshine Coast had heard of, into a worthwhile destination.
Today the markets run every Wednesday from 8 am – 1:30 pm and every Saturday from 6:30 am – 2:00 pm on Memorial Drive in the centre of town. Thousands of visitors from the Sunshine Coast and around the world travel to Eumundi every week to purchase locally made clothes, accessories, jewellery, health and beauty products, furniture, homeware, artwork, and more. The markets have grown since that original market day in 1979, but the ethos of selling locally created goods has remained, and that’s what makes the Eumundi Markets so successful.