23 June 2022

Craft stalls are back as River and Wren prepares for a welcome return

| Chris Roe
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market stall

The River and Wren Markets attract visitors from across the Riverina. Photo: Supplied.

Jennie Meiklejohn loves a good local market. She loves them so much that she runs one of the biggest in the region.

“I’ve always been a market girl,” she laughs.

“Everywhere I am, I go to markets and I just knew the kind of market I enjoyed going to.”

Wagga’s iconic River and Wren markets began eight years ago as a creative outlet for the Riverina mum.

“I was just looking for something to do when I had young children and there was a handmade market in Wagga that was closing down,” she explains.

“I saw a post from the girl who was doing it that said ‘you must come to the next market, because it’s the last one and it’s Mother’s Day’ and I thought, ‘well, I can do that. I’d like to do that’. So I contacted her.”

From its beginnings as a small craft market, Jennie expanded to include food, and River and Wren soon became a fixture on the Riverina events calendar.

“I guess just over the time, it’s got a good reputation and I like to think that’s because we run it well and we have a very high quality of work,” she says.

“It’s curated which means I get to choose who comes. It has to be handmade by the person who’s selling it and I try to keep it as local as possible.”

lady at table

Jennie’s love of local markets inspired her to found the River and Wren. Photo: Supplied.

Before COVID, thousands of eager shoppers and browsers frequented the bimonthly markets at the Wagga Showground.

This weekend’s event is just the second this year, and Jennie is hopeful that the visitors will return to support local arts and crafts.

“We got one in just before COVID really hit. We had a market and then within two weeks our world had changed,” she says.

“It’s fabulous to be able to run markets again and see everybody’s happy and smiling faces and bring the community back together.

“When we couldn’t hold the markets our beautiful traders were losing money and, like many people, struggled during COVID.

“But it’s a lovely community and such a friendly group of people.”

Jennie says it’s that strong sense of community that makes a market great.

“You’ve got to be able to walk in and feel the love. If I can feel the atmosphere, I can see there’s food to eat, there’s music and just lots of people,” she enthuses.

“If you can walk around and go ‘I don’t have enough money for everything I want to buy’, that’s a good market!”

market stall

Visitors are beginning to return after the COVID interruptions of the past two years. Photo: Supplied.

And while she’s hopeful that punters come with money to spend, she says it’s not the only goal.

“I want our traders to come and have a really good day. But if all people want to do is come and buy a coffee and meet their family or friends and sit and have a chat, that’s fine,” she smiles.

“I’m happy that I’m providing that venue and that opportunity for people to do that.”

The next River and Wren Markets will be held this Sunday between 10 am and 2 pm at the Wagga Showground.

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