By Bill Parry
When the popular Queens International Night Market returns for its fourth season at the New York Hall of Science parking lot in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in April, the first two nights will be ticketed to alleviate traffic, enormous crowds and any disruption to the surrounding community.
Over its first three seasons the food-focused festival drew more than 600,000 visitors, helped launch 200 new businesses in New York, and represented more than 80 nations through its vendors and their food. Last year the event averaged 9,000 attendees each Saturday night, according to its founder, John Wang.
“In order to create a uniquely diverse and welcoming event, we have focused almost obsessively on affordability and accessibility,” Wang said. “As a testament to that we continue to draw perhaps the most divers crowd in New York City — it feels like a true cross-section of NYC is in attendance on any given night. That’s really what makes the whole endeavor worthwhile.”
Debuting in 2015, the city’s first and only regularly occurring night market introduced a $5 price cap on all food and implemented uniquely accommodating vendor policies with the goal of creating a cultural event that appealed to the widest possible audience and encouraged small business. This year the Night Market has received more than 300 vendor applications and has already assigned roughly two-thirds of the available vending spots.
“We’re still holding fast to everything important to us — affordability, accessibility, diversity,” Wang said. “The only thing we’ve really changed since Day One is that a few dishes are priced at $6, and that’s only where the margins are razor thin.”
Last year, the Night Market raised and donated nearly $40,000 to various charities and causes, including immigration advocacy, NYPD and FDNY family survivors funds, NYC Parks, breast cancer research, and disaster relief in Puerto Rico and Mexico. This year the Night Market hopes to raise significant funds to help feed those in need and is looking for organizations and community leaders who would like to partner in these efforts.
“The Night Market is all about community and culture, and we aspire to give back as much as we possible can,” Wang said. “Across all of last year, we ended up raising and donating more money to charity than we actually made in profits. We’re still exploring the best organizations to support this year and are certainly open to suggestion.”
Tickets for the first two nights, April 21 and April 28, are $5 and can be purchased in advance by visiting queensnightmarket.com. The Night Market will be free and open to the public again starting May 5 and for the duration of the season.
“We’re in discussions with several potential sponsors. Any deal would go a very long way to keeping this event free-to-attend and keeping vendor fees as affordable as possible,” Wang said. “I believe the Night Market can create value for sponsors from a marketing and brand equity standpoint; companies can engage directly with hundreds of thousands of people, while also demonstrating a visible commitment to our core value — cultural and ethnic diversity, accessibility, and small business.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr