N8N roving reporter Ciaran Warner finds out about life on the road.
GYPSY TRAVELLERS Kathleena Reid and Denise ‘Mouse’ Hayes are mighty pleased with what they say was one of the best Gypsy Fairs in Hamilton thus far.
“And we always have good ones here,” says Kathleena.
As members of the Original Gypsy Fair, the duo are on the road eight months of the year, spending at least two days a week in a different town, selling their special wares and allowing the public a glimpse of the gypsy way of life. This time round they have parked up at a friend’s house in Gordonton.
The two make regular visits to Gordonton on the road, often staying for a day or two for the shops, the scenery, and the people.
“We love Gordonton,” says Kathleena. “The vet here especially is great, very caring. Unlike almost every other vet across the country, they’re concerned with the animal’s health first, rather than the financial bits and pieces.”
The vet is an essential service, as Kathleena travels with her dogs Monte and Hope, and Denise with her dog Velvet.
“They’re great company, and they look after us well,” says Kathleena, whose dog Hope has already chased away would-be bicycle thieves on two occasions.
“The Farm Shop is really good, all the wonderful fresh fruit and veg they provide. The trees are beautiful too. It’s a back road sort of place, a lot of people are passing through but it’s not busy,” says Denise.
“I call it my sanctuary,” adds Kathleena. “It’s nice to have a spot so peaceful, that’s not noisy.”
The fair is a business, says Kathleena. “We’re contracted to appear at every fair, 32 towns over eight months in both the North and South Islands. Orewa is as far north as we go, Invercargill is our southernmost town.”
Last weekend’s Gypsy Fair in Claudelands Park saw a large turnout from locals looking to sample the many goods and services on offer.
The two see Hamilton as a very ‘multicultural’ place, with very friendly people.
“There’s no trouble with the reception here, it’s a very accepting place,” Kathleena says. “There are some places we get given a hard time, but this is not one of them.”
Kathleena offers tarot readings, and gets hundreds of regulars in every place she visits, many in Hamilton. Denise’s expertise is gemstones, crystals and jewellery.
The Original Gypsy Fair started in 1990, with the aim of allowing travellers across the country to make a living while providing entertainment and unique goods to the public. A combination of market and carnival, it allows its vendors the freedom their lifestyle requires, as they are given up to a week to explore the country on the way to their next venue.
Kathleena, who has been on the road for 22 years and been with the Original Gypsy Fair for 14 years, says the best part is the ‘freedom.’
“We’re very lucky to be able to see the whole country every year… we stay in places with million-dollar views on a regular basis, and we get to see it all. New Zealand is such a gorgeous country.”
Denise has been with the fair three years, having spent 13 years previously with various markets and shops.
“It’s special, the freedom of not being stuck in a place of four walls and one spot,” she says.
“Not having power bills is nice too,” adds Kathleena.
They describe the Gypsy Fair community as a diverse one, with many members possessing a variety of skills useful for life on the road.
“The vehicles need maintaining all the time, like a house but smaller,” Katheena says. “We do rely a lot on fellow travellers… there are a lot of crafters, mechanics, electricians, everyone has a skill and they contribute.”
Their vehicles are hand-painted house buses bedecked with a variety of crafts and ornaments, solar powered and self-containing, so as to ensure no waste is left behind.
“We live a lot of our lives outdoors, spending time in the elements among nature,” says Kathleena. “In winter it can get a bit tough, I tend to suffer a bit from cabin fever”.
However, she says there is no other way she’d rather live, and claims she will only stop when she is too old to drive.
“The only thing I can see stopping me from doing this is age,” she says.
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