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Riccarton Sunday Market | A Sensory Delight Guest post by Jennifer Branje |

Into its 30th year running, the Riccarton Sunday Market serves up a welcoming slice of urban culture, friendliness and good old-fashioned hospitality.

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Its nine o’clock on a sunny Sunday morning. A steady stream of traffic enters the grounds of Riccarton Racecourse to browse more than 300 market stalls and enjoy the light entertainment. For some, breakfast is waiting just inside the gate. For others, it’s a Sunday bargain hunt. 

Riccarton Racecourse is a marvellous venue with ample parking. Huge Oak trees offer marketgoers shelter from the morning sun. The aroma of fresh coffee and culinary treats brings on a moment of involuntary salivation as I enter the gates. Already, people are gathering to chatter and inspect the wares on offer. The atmosphere is friendly and light. Intermittent picnic tables line the paths offering comfortable seating for Sunday brunches. Though it’s still relatively early, (by Sunday morning standards), many are heavily laden with bags of shopping. I get a whiff of the most pleasant floral scent and head off to find its source.

Henrietta is almost 80 years old and has been selling her natural beauty creams and lotions at the market since it began. She’s now stepped into the digital age and is offering her products online. “For 30 years the market has been my main business arena” she states. Henrietta’s creams must work, she doesn’t look half her age! Open pots with wooden spatulas invite customers to test the products. They smell divine. Comically I ask if the ‘wrinkle cream’ is available in 10 litre buckets. Henrietta chuckles and assures me it can be arranged. I leave her to her adoring customers and head off down another market alley.

Cleverly set out, market lanes are numbered and arranged so you can easily stroll, browse and not miss a stall. Many of the Hawkers only take cash, but there’s a mobile ATM available at the gate for those who can’t resist a shiny trinket or bargain.
Stalls offer an impressive array of Kiwi made products. Greenstone, bone & wood carvings, steel sculptures (big and small) possum fur apparel, Maori craft and good Kiwi tucker add to an authentic New Zealand vibe. There’s also the famous Whitebait Fritter along with fresh fish, wild venison and a traditional Maori hangi to tantalise your taste buds. Plenty of carnival style food stands with hot dogs, chips and cold drinks add a festive feel. Gluten free & organically grown produce is also available.

I wander a little further and find an impressive stall belonging to Mike & Jackie, a friendly professional couple. They have been offering their amazing steel sculptures to market visitors for many years. Accompanied by Mitchell, one of their sons, Jackie relays the early years of stall holding with small children. “Our kids helped in the workshop and market from a young age. It’s how they earned their pocket money” she says. Their stall is an artwork in itself and well worth seeking out.

Clearly, this market has many longstanding vendors & shoppers. Perhaps that’s why it has such a great family feel and an aura of warmth and friendliness. Regular bargain hunters and visitors sit together like old friends enjoying the upbeat entertainment while sipping great coffee and scoffing top notch market food. Cruisy tunes resonate from the open social space as small children lick melting ice creams & hot dog sauce from their fingers.

I spot what looks to be a stuffed Schnauzer dressed in tartan regalia, sitting on a market stall. Turns out she’s the real thing, feasting on the pats and attention of passers-by. She does her job well, bringing pet lovers to peruse a wardrobe of doggy attire and pet products. I leave the stall with a large bag stuffed with coats and a sunhat for my canine companion and a comfy ‘Cruella’ patterned bed for my feline. Bargains for sure.

After an hour or more of browsing, buying and scoffing in the beautiful Canterbury sunshine, I’ve done my dash.

Making my way to the exit, a lovely gentleman on his mobility scooter gives way to relaxed, meandering pedestrians, precariously juggling their loot. Ray and his trusty chihuahua ‘Lily’ are regular market attendees. Little Lily rides in a basket fixed to the handlebars. Ray’s mobility scooter is an impressive chariot. Protruding from the handlebars is a proud pair of deer antlers and firmly fixed to the rear is a Canterbury Crusaders rugby flag. Ray has ‘pimped’ his ride to perfectly depict his interests. He drives off after a quick chat, weaving his way through the masses who are still flocking into the ground.

Riccarton Sunday Market was a cheerful and enjoyable place to be. If you are in Christchurch on a Sunday, make time to visit - its open all year round. Riccarton Sunday Market is run and administered by the local Rotary Club and is a credit to them and the people who make this leisurely Sunday market a fabulous experience for all. Over the 30 years the market has been running, it has enabled the Rotary Club of Riccarton to distribute over $3 million back into the local community.

The Riccarton Sunday Market is open from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. every Sunday, all year round. 




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