“I have a passion for making things better for others and building communities,” says Kempsey Riverside Markets Coordinator Belinda Fowler. “I also love markets and all things creative.”
It’s this attitude, along with considerable elbow grease, that has seen Belinda take the Kempsey Riverside Markets from a little collection of stalls to a bustling monthly event that attracts hundreds of visitors to Kempsey.
The Kempsey Riverside Markets were initiated by the Macleay Valley Business Chamber four years ago and Belinda was employed at the beginning of 2018 “to take the markets to the next level.” The markets have grown from an average of 60 stalls in 2017 to 120 stalls in 2018, while attendance has quadrupled
“When I started the job as market co-ordinator, I spent six months visiting my favourite markets and researching what made them so successful,” Belinda says. “I began to approach stalls that I loved and asked if they’d like to be part of the Kempsey markets. I think the key was meeting people face to face and conveying the passion I felt for our markets and our valley.”
“I also knew that if I tried to get more food and music, people would come,” she says. “I love wandering around the markets listening to comments and I hear a lot of positive comments about the music. I love that people in Kempsey are proud of their market and look forward to it.”
Social media has also been a key tool in growing the Kempsey Riverside Markets, and Belinda commits to regularly connecting with the event’s 3400 plus facebook fans and over 1000 Instagram followers.
“Social media has been a great tool,” she says. “I’m aware that most people hear about the markets via facebook or Instagram so I make time to create interesting posts. I love using social media because you can immediately see the reaction and get the statistics.”
“Word of mouth has also been a big factor in our growth. We’re lucky to have a couple of popular stallholders who are very vocal about how much they love the Kempsey markets – the sourdough stall owner, Steve, says it’s his most lucrative market! Some of them don’t go to any other markets because they make enough out of ours.”
According to Belinda, there are big plans for the future of the Kempsey Riverside Markets, beginning with the Twilight Markets to be held on December 1.
“We’ll be incorporating both Smith Street and West Kempsey into the Twilight Market, with crazy day sales running throughout the day,” she says. “This will include a car show and shine and live music. In the park, there will be a mini market with fresh fruit and veg, plants, a free jumping castle and a sausage sizzle. The Natureland Classic Motorcycle club have their annual toy run scheduled for December 1, so they will be arriving at the West Kempsey park at around 12 where people can come and check out their beautiful bikes. Santa will be there too – biker Santa!”
“My hope is that the ethos of the markets permeates the whole of Kempsey, so people feel like this is a creative, happening town.