On Saturday 19 December 2020 was Bello Markets 40th birthday and the day was buzzing with activity; local music, entertainment, and community groups.
Growing from strength to strength, Bello Markets is now one of the oldest, largest, and most diverse markets on the east coast, with over 200 stalls, delicious food and great music. Thousands of people are attracted to the town on market weekend as people unite to trade, socialise and enjoy what Bellingen has to offer.
Bellingen Community Market’s foundations were firmly laid 40 years ago by pioneering men and women. The sustainability of the popular monthly event is thanks to the good people and networks who have supported and enjoyed the market journey. Read more below.
Everyone is welcome to join the 40-year celebrations of Bellingen Community Markets, not just a marketplace, but a great place to be. 40 years strong and many more to come.
Bellingen Community Markets in the Beginning
The first Bellingen Market was held on Sunday 23rd October 1977 by the Bellingen Art and Craft in the grounds of their Hyde Street premises at the Bellingen Community Centre (the old school-house which is now the Local Shire Council complex). The aim was to gauge interest and demand for local produce and handcrafts. The inaugural market was quite a success but not without problems and conflicts. An application was made to council for a second market in November 1977 but was not approved. In its place a ‘Rainforest and Natural History’ information day was held. Further representation was made to council for a December market. Permission was again refused and as a result no markets were held in Bellingen for some time.
Around 1979 the President and Secretary of the Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre, Mary Anderson and Roma Mulder got together with local resident Chris Elford and organised a second market at the Bellingen Showground as a fundraising venture for the centre. Owing to lack of support and further complications the market again vanished into obscurity.
Bellingen Community Market 1980 to 2020 and Beyond
Traditionally, in isolated country areas, markets were held on a regular basis, allowing people from within the area and remote locations to meet in a central location to sell or barter their produce, display their crafts and wares, be entertained and socialise with friends and acquaintances not often seen. In keeping with this tradition and moving with the times, Bellingen Community Markets was and still is held on a monthly basis for its social and entertainment value but also for its commercial value to the town and shire.
Attracting stalls and visitors from across Australia to its picturesque surrounds in Bellingen Park, the market offers visitors and locals alike a cross cultural view of our community, lively entertainment, buskers, bargains, great food from across the globe and a wide diversity of stalls making it one of the most popular regional markets in Australia – not just a market place but a great place to be.
Changing times and venues
Some-time later, towards the end of 1980 (after much water had passed under the bridge) another application was made to Council by the Community Centre to again hold a market in town. The application was approved, and permission was granted for 3 markets to be held on a trial basis. Sadly, this was a decision that nearly split the town.
In December 1980 the market was on the way again and operating on the 3rd Saturday of each month from 12 noon onwards at the northern end of Church Street however, due to several problems the market was again moved as part of its trial status to Oak Street (in front of the Old Council Chambers). This proved to be an unsatisfactory venue, so it returned to its original location in Church Street. At this stage of the market’s growth, the running, operating and management of the market had been transferred from the Community Centre to the newly formed Bellingen Shire Association. In the ensuing years, several applications were made to Council to relocate the fledgling market to a more suitable location. Several alternative venues were investigated. It was not until early 1984 the market moved to Church St, on the western side of Bellingen Park.
With an initial slow settling in period during this time the markets soon found its roots and flourished during the 1985 Azalea Affair (remember that?) with an unprecedented 70 stalls in attendance. By 1987 the word had spread on the grapevine to surrounding areas, that a new country market was on the circuit, in a setting second to none on the north coast. It provided stalls and great entertainment. It was a fun day for the entire family in a unique country atmosphere. The following year saw the stalls on Church Street side of Bellingen Park increase to bursting point with over 100 stalls and record crowds attending the 1988 Christmas market.
Realising the growth, potential and benefits that could be generated and gained from having a larger market in town, as part of the growing east coast circuit, the market organisers submitted an application to local council and football club for the use of the eastern side of Bellingen Park to cope with the growing demand for stall sites. Permission was granted in 1989 to expand the market onto the eastern side of Bellingen Park up to the perimeters of the oval.
With this new expanse of ground, mixed with the unique atmosphere in a vibrant and colourful community the market began realising its full potential and was becoming recognised as one of the major markets on the east coast circuit.
In December 1990 the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Bellingen Markets was ranked in the top four markets in Australia. Bellingen Community Markets….. not just a marketplace but a great place to be
Proceeds from the monthly community market (after costs) are donated back into the local community via charities, community groups, schools and not for profit organisations. More than one hundred thousand dollars has been donated over the last 35 years.
Some of the groups over the years include: SES, Radio 2bbb-fm, Bellingen Life Education Centre, public schools from Bellingen, Dorrigo and Urunga, Bellingen Hospital and Auxiliary, Bellingen Youth and Gymnastic Club, W.I.R.E.S, Bellingen Football Club, Bellingen Lions Club, Dorrigo Community Herb Garden, Dorrigo Wastebusters, Bellingen Adult Education Centre, Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre, Bellingen Azalea Affair, Dorrigo Dramatic Club, Sunset Therapy Unit, Bellorana Nursing Home, Dorrigo Community Day Care, Bellingen Environment Centre, Dawnsong Preschool, Bellingen Skillshare, Toxin Action Group (TAG) , Kids Off The Streets (KOTS), Bellingen Vacation Care, Bellingen Cubs and Scouts, Fernmount Fire Brigade, Urunga Play Centre, Bellingen Adults Day Care, Bellingen Folk club, Bellingen Jazz Festival, Bellingen Time Away Service, Bellingen Chamber of Commerce, Bellingen Red Cross, Dorrigo Hospital Auxiliary, Urunga Surf Club, Bellingen Pool, Children’s Special Support Group, North Beach Surf Club, Bellingen Music Festival, Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival to name but a few.
As you can see from above, Bellingen Community Markets is truly a community event and organisers would like to thank the many people who have supported over the years, and helped make it a truly wonderful event. Community groups are welcome to write to the market committee requesting donations or to join the community group program.