Tanunda’s Goat Square is peaceful during mid-morning.
Magpies gurgle a melodic tune overhead. The occasional car passes by rows of quaint cottages.
Mild summer sunshine is filtered by trees that line the square, casting dappled light across the smooth, thoughtful face of 48-year-old Anna Hayes as she sits cross-legged on a park bench upon a quadrant of cool green lawn.
This is a place Anna is intimately familiar with, yet today’s ordinary state is a stark contrast to the Goat Square she knows best.
Casting her eyes out across the crossroad, she sets the scene of Ziegenmarkt (‘goat market’ in English), the brief but beloved event which is held here every two years as part of the Barossa Vintage Festival.
“We block the streets from early in the morning, and then in darkness a band of workers move in and turn it into a little bustling marketplace,” explains Anna, who took over as Ziegenmarkt’s convener in 2015.
“There’s goats in pens, hay bales laid out for people to sit on, and then stalls in each lawn area.
“We park Rockford’s Bedford truck in the middle of the cross streets and run a produce auction off the back… It’s a really happy, buzzy little space.”
Lasting three hours, this bite-sized event is only a small morsel of the larger vintage feast, yet for Anna, it embodies much of what is important about the festival: heritage, community and pride; and her involvement has helped weave her life back into the folds of her Barossa homeland.
Born Anna Seppelt, a great-great-great-grand daughter of the founders of Seppeltsfield, Anna moved from Marananga to Sydney at age 21 to pursue a career in advertising as a graphic designer.
But after nearly two decades away the pull to come home became irrepressible, and she relocated with husband, Ian and children, Bethany and Henry to Tanunda in 2009.
“I just missed the easy way of life,” reflects Anna.
“It’s not as hectic, which was great in my early twenties, but as a parent, the shift was quite significant and I just didn’t want to be in the city anymore.”
The Barossa Anna returned to was both refreshingly different to the one she left in the ‘90s in terms of progress and opportunity, especially for business, and welcomingly unchanged with its down-to-earth values and sense of community.
Being from a long line of “doers”, it wasn’t long before Anna looked for ways to reconnect with that community in a meaningful way.
“It was at a time in my life when I was able to do some volunteer work, and it was suggested to me that maybe something on the Vintage Festival committee might be a good fit,” says Anna.
She was approached to convene Ziegenmarkt, which she happily took on, continuing a family legacy of involvement with Vintage Festival, which began with her grandfather’s cousin, “Old Bill” Hilton Mervin Seppelt, who founded the event in 1947.
More directly, her own father, Malcolm Seppelt sat in as Chairman of the Vintage Fair committee in 1971 after the unexpected death of Tom Morris six months out from the event.
“That event was responsible for the original maypole,” says Anna.
“They built an enormous cement block in the middle of the oval to support the maypole base, and then they had girls from all over the region being taught the maypole dance, and around the perimeter of the oval were all the winery and sponsor tents. It was huge.”
She pauses as a wry smile flicks across her face.
“Funnily enough I think a few people these days find the whole idea of that part of our history a little bit cringy, but I actually think it’s really quite sweet.
“I’m a bit of a sentimentalist, I think. While we’re very different and have moved on in a lot of ways… It’s about celebrating who we are and how we got to where we are now.”
Anna has similar feelings about the Vintage Queen event, of which she looks back fondly on as a 1993 finalist.
“I think that competition back in the day was a lovely way to celebrate that part of our culture,” she says.
“I don’t think the base sentiment of what they were trying to do is any different, but these days the Young Ambassador programme is more reflective of contemporary expectations.”
But aside from the history, it’s the community aspect of the festival that really resonates with Anna, and over the six or so years she’s been involved with Ziegenmarkt, she’s had the opportunity to witness the very best of public spirit in the people she has come to know and love.
“I see it all the time in the Barossa,” Anna says thoughtfully.
“And it’s not just Vintage Festival, it’s all over the place, sporting clubs, service groups, school committees. I see generations of families that continually put their hand up.
“It’s what makes a community a community; people are willing to give up their time and effort and they want to see things succeed and move forward, and they have great pride in that too, making sure we’ve got a strong and caring community.”
If there was ever a time where that was needed most, it’s now, through the prevailing uncertainty of a pandemic.
“For me it highlighted that we really are surrounded by lots of great people. The people in this region really quite genuinely care about each other,” says Anna.
“I think we realised that if we can get through a year like that where there has been so many ups and downs, we can pretty much get through anything.”
While Anna describes herself as one of the “lucky” ones to have not lost her livelihood, Tanunda stationery and design business, Daisy loves George, like everyone, she has not emerged from the pandemic completely unscathed.
Convening Ziegenmarkt is one aspect of post-COVID life she has chosen to shelve.
“After what was a pretty wobbly year, I really needed to focus on our business and make sure that stays strong this year,” she says, casting a final glance across the sunny square, which will, come April, be transformed once again under new leadership.
“I was really lucky, I had three great committee years. I’ve met some really amazing young people through the Young Ambassadors who sat on the committees, and I had some really great support from my own family and some friends that worked on the committee with me.
“It’s certainly not a one person job, it takes a lot of people to pull it together.”