GAYLE PEARSON is not a morning person. Oh no, the Gordonton Country Market stallholder wrangler says – “don’t talk to me, don’t turn the radio on… I can’t even think in the mornings.”
This makes rising predawn on the day of the market particularly… trying.
But she’s up for it (literally), and after weetbix and a cup of tea, delivered by husband Robert, she’s on site at Hukanui Park before 6am, almost bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
“I love it. I don’t know what I do, but I’m always busy doing it. Every stallholder wants to talk with me.”
On average Gayle works with more than 90 stallholders each month, the Christmas market had 115.
Her day doesn’t end until about 3pm, after she’s helped tidy up and done a few other jobs.
“On Sunday I’m worn out. But it’s an absolute joy to be involved.”
Gayle was involved right from the start; she was at the church service in the Oaks Christian Centre when pastor Gary Marquand challenged people to come up with ways to grow the community.
“Not necessarily to bring them into the church, but how to be good neighbours. We were in little groups and mine came up with the idea of making a banner. Robert bought some timber to frame it, which still hasn’t been done, because we got distracted by the market.”
The idea for which came from another group with Xenia Brown and Judy Chrystal. “They said how about running a country market in Gordonton, like the one in Tamahere.
A meeting was called and Gayle, who is an ESOL teacher in Hamilton, thought she’d go along to offer support.
“I’d give encouragement and volunteer on market days but I couldn’t take any more jobs on, I was also the church’s treasurer at the time.”
Very soon she was in charge of the Devonshire teas in the old school house and was managing the money.
Robert is a constant presence at the market as well, moving equipment, fixing things and generally being fantastic, she says.
She took on looking after the stall holders when Xenia and husband Peter Brown moved to Auckland last year. “I thought it meant making sure there were stallholders on the spot – but there’s much more to it and a lot of contact. You really get to know them; who is having a baby, who is sick, it is a real outreach to community which is a wonderful thing.”
“We always go down on a Friday afternoon to set up tables, clean the toilets, move toys, mow the lawns… There are always helpers from the community lending a hand, before one market I counted 40 people helping out.”
The first committee was made up of the Browns, Karyn Stroud, Judy Chrystal and Gayle Pearson. The Browns are still very much involved, even remotely from Auckland and with a young baby. KerryAnn Norman is now also on board.
The market was modelled on Tamahere’s hugely successful event, with valued input from Jane Manson right from the start.
They had no idea how the idea would turn out, Gayle says.
“After the first meeting I expected a big gala on the back lawn by the church. I didn’t even know the reserve was there, and we’ve lived in Gordonton for 10 years.”
More than 2000 people and 70 stallholders attended the first Gordonton Country Market, held on a blustery Saturday the 8th of September.
And it’s gone from strength to strength since, becoming a significant even in the local calendar. (And further afield as well.)
“It’s a real joy and feels like the heart of the community,” says Gayle.
The Easter market is a special one too – “The first 100 people to arrive will get a free hotcross bun from Bakers Delight, and the stall holders too. If the buns last people who buy Devonshire tea will also get one.”
There is also a hotcross bun bake-off. “We want people to bake their own hot cross buns and bring them to the market to be judged. Andrew Stroud will be one of the judges. We want to know who has the best recipe in the district!”