A whole range of amusements were on offer when the Original Gypsy Fair set up in Kowhai Park last weekend.

There were amusements to pay for - a shooting gallery, permanent and temporary tattoos, segway rides, tarot readings and music. There were objects to buy and take home - clothes, incense, crystals, glass animals.

And there were things to eat and drink - coffee, hot chips, muffins. There were also free amusements - jugglers to watch, rocking horses to ride.

The fair's 20 vehicles set up around a circle and were open to visitors from 9 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday. They were here on the weekend after Vintage Weekend every year, organiser Gavin Mackenzie said.


He joined the group in 1995, and spends nine months a year on the road. He used to travel with children in his bus. These days his partner Judy Sergeant has her own bus and own business.

Judy Sergeant tattoos David Bourke in her mobile tattoo studio. Photo/ Stuart Munro Wanganui Chronicle
Judy Sergeant tattoos David Bourke in her mobile tattoo studio. Photo/ Stuart Munro Wanganui Chronicle

The fair is "The Original" Gypsy Fair because it started way back in the 1980s with the Nambassa hippie festivals.

It got organised in the 1990s. Now Gypsy Fair Ltd is owned by former travellers Jim and Venus Banks. Mr Banks' whole life has revolved around fairs and carnivals.

"He's a showman from way back."

The Banks organise bookings and publicity for the travellers. Mr Mackenzie handles stuff on the road - toilets, rubbish.

"The hazard management stuff these days is way more complicated than it used to be. Semi-cities are diabolical to deal with. Whanganui isn't too bad," he said.

The fair has an annual circuit, starting in December in the Bay of Plenty and finishing in Christchurch in early May. Then there are three months off, when people can get work or go to their homes.

Mr Mackenzie "lies low" in a one-bedroom bach on land he owns near Hunterville. It's off the grid and heated by a wood stove.


"I haven't had a power bill this century, and I don't mow lawns."

The fair provides a venue for the gypsies to trade on 32 weekends of the year. It's only open during the day. In the evening the travellers socialise on "the village green" in the middle of their circle.

"No one is expected to be there. No one is turned away. We try and keep it up for everyone."

New businesses are added after careful consideration. There must be no double-ups, and 80 per cent of product must be handmade.

People who want to join have a head start if they have a sound vehicle that they already live in. For couples, it helps if they have already run a business together.

It's also best if travellers are debt-free. Overheads are low but vehicle expenses can be high.

"If you are coming here to make money, there will never be enough. If you're coming here for the lifestyle, it's outside your back door every minute," Mr Mackenzie said.