When Maureen Brider first travelled over the Rimutaka Hill to set up a stall at the Martinborough Fair, it was something of a free-for-all.
"It was a really relaxed atmosphere," the Khandallah potter says. "There were no allocations, so whoever got there first just took a spot, and most people chose to go under the trees in the middle of The Square.
"And that was either 1981 or 1982, so I've been going for 30 years now."
This morning she will once again make the early trip to set up her pottery stall in the spot she has occupied since the mid-1980s.
The fair is normally held on the first Saturdays of February and March, but the March event was cancelled this year because of poor weather, and has been rescheduled for today.
Organisers expect 440 stalls, close to the 480 they usually accommodate.
Ms Brider makes and sells terracotta pottery and the odd planter or sculpture.
"Initially there were lots and lots of pottery stalls, it felt like every second stall sold pottery, but there's a lot fewer now," she says.
The fair was first held in 1977, and featured just 35 stalls. These days up to 25,000 people peruse the multitude of food, clothing, art and craft stalls on offer.
Funds raised from the rental of the stall sites goes to South Wairarapa Rotary, which puts the money back into the community and towards national Rotary projects.
Ms Brider says the fair isn't the money-spinner for stallholders that it was in its 1980s heyday, but it is still a big social occasion.
"Most stallholders come over with family and friends and I usually have someone with me to chat with throughout the day.
"Over the years all of my children, and my young nieces and nephews and friends' children have visited the stall, and they always want to come and help me sell things – the kids love serving the customers."
She plans on returning for as long as she can. "It's such a great event, and it just seemed to click right from the start.
"Everyone seemed to be talking about the Martinborough Fair."
The Martinborough Fair runs from 8am to 4pm today at the Martinborough Square. Entry is free.
- The Dominion Post
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