On Saturday morning I showered, washed my hair, ate breakfast (all big events when you have small children!) put on make-up and my new preeeetty Betty Lane jumper #gippslandrepresent and trotted off to the Choo Choo Market in Mirboo North. I had been looking forward to this market for literally months – they have been teasing me with little snippets in their Instagram feed of what would be on offer, so I had it clearly marked on our calendar on the kitchen wall. Matt was most perplexed though that it wasn’t to be a family outing. Nope. No no nope. I was going solo without a pram or a baby carrier or a hungry toddler touching all of the things or trying to think about two (well, often three) other people’s needs before my own. I was going alone and the children were staying at home. Yaaaasssss.
And I wasn’t disappointed – the goodies! The pretties. The handmade goodness. It was reasonably busy when I got there, but not too crazy (unlike the Gippsland Maker’s Market I went to a few weeks ago, which gave me an eye twitch and heart palpitations, although I did have a toilet training toddler and a cranky baby in toe that day, not ideal). The Choo Choo Market has a lovely little small town community feel, exactly what the organisers envisaged when the idea of the market was conceived several years ago. The market is the brain child of a clever and enterprising group of parents who run the (locally infamously fabulous) Mirboo North Playgroup. It is their main fundraiser of the year, with gold coin donations, raffles and events throughout the day. This year was the first year they’ve included creative workshops as part of the day, with the likes of Sweet Afton passing on her rad watercolour skills.
Perusing the stalls sans-children I actually talked to the creative souls behind the businesses, asking where they hailed from and getting a feel for their products. All were local! Such cleverness in our green hills, lots of favourites that have been with the market since the beginning, and lots of new faces I had seen about the social media traps but didn’t even realise they were Gippslanders! But of course they are.
My poor back pocket got a work out, which is entirely okay in my books at an event like this. I am more than happy to liberally throw my dollars at little handmade businesses. I came away with some earrings, a necklace and keychain from Sarah Jane Jewellery, a beautiful romper and sweet dress for Harriet from Annie Belle and some mustard tights from Lottie Shoes, a string of pearls plant from Arizona Living (this was a popular stall) for my lounge room decorating woes and a pretty little floral storage basket for Eleanor’s hair bows from Hello Sweet Mae. Not to mention all the market-purchase-regrets I have… soooo many pretties from Land of Rhi to Sweet Afton to Shezware, Rockinghorse clothing and Artista Style’s dreamy ocean artwork.
The Winter market had it’s beginnings with a children’s and baby focus, but on Saturday there were lots of stalls of all varieties – sweet foodie treats, silversmith jewellery, beeswax reusable food wraps, travel bags and satchels (lovely Father’s Day gifts) and local folky acoustic live music setting the scene beautifully. Choo Choo has evolved from a few very small market nights within the tight knit group of playgroup families, to the yearly event it is today. The day was so well run by a small volunteer organising committee, well attended by hundreds from near and far, and had a lovely vibe, smiling faces throughout the old shire hall – Spring was in the air in Mirboo North! I ran into lots of local people, familiar faces, and a few unfamiliar but friendly taps on the shoulder from blog readers and Instagram followers.
Funds raised from Choo Choo Market all go directly to the Mirboo North Playgroup, which services about 20 local families with young children. This year the playgroup is hoping to build a new nature based playground for the children to enjoy, as well as keep their membership costs down. Sounds good to me! I’ll happily spend that extra money at the market – oops! Perusing all the stalls I felt so lucky that we live in this special part of the world, and this pocket of Gippsland in particular, raising our little people alongside some likeminded families. We are surrounded by engaged community groups, doing their thing, having a crack and having some fun along the way. Mirboo North in particular I feel is kicking some serious goals lately, there’s a buzz about the little community with exciting events and creativity around every corner.
After I’d done my damage and had my fun at Choo Choo I popped over the road to the regular monthly Mirboo North market, grabbing a coffee from the Sweet Betsy girls, ran into some more locals (“Where are the girls?!”) admiring some chickens, as I do, and buying a few plants for a spot of weekend gardening, as well as some gorgeous blush proteas from Allambee Flower Farm to brighten up the Brindabella farmhouse. Local market people rocking their Saturday right.
I meandered home through our hills, and spent the rest of the weekend completely inspired and reinvigorated, the creative juices may have been contagious at Choo Choo! Or it may have been the childfree time. Quite possibly the latter. Either way, Choo Choo is an event I look forward to every year (this was my third year I’d attended since we’ve lived back in Gippsland) and it’s a weekend I’ll mark the calendar well in advance for. Perhaps next year I’ll even let my husband come with the children.
Choo Choo Market is the yearly fundraiser event for the Mirboo North Playgroup, usually held in August at the Mirboo North Shire Hall. Stallholders are all local and carefully selected to showcase a variety of crafts Gippsland grown, sewn and made.
For more information on the market you can visit their Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram.