The Queens Night Market at Flushing Meadows Corona Park made a comeback on Saturday, June 19, for its sixth season with special guest appearances from Mayor Bill de Blasio as well as Mr. and Mrs. Met — kicking off opening night of the popular event that was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some people suggested that the pandemic would be too much for New York City and we wouldn’t be able to come back. Some people, yes — who said that?” de Blasio said. “Some people thought if New York City got knocked down, we would not get back up. Those people don’t know New Yorkers, do they? New York City right now is in the middle of the greatest comeback in our history … there is no stopping the Queens Night Market and there’s no stopping New York City.”
The event’s opening night included special guests such as Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who presented a proclamation to John Wang, founder of the Queens Night Market.
Live performances included DJ (and Wall Street Journal reporter) Katie Honan, who spinned a mix of classic and recent tunes for kids and adults; Os Clavelitos, an American Samba band whose original music celebrates Brazil’s rich musical heritage combining Brazilian rhythms with English lyrics; The Groovalicious Project led by guitarist John “Groovalicious” Willis; and MYXD ORDER, which combines a blend of classic rock with the power and energy of dance, funk and R&B.
The Queens Night Market will operate on Saturday nights from 4 p.m. until midnight through Oct. 30, with a three-week break for the U.S. Open. For its first two weeks, the Queens Night Market will have on a large movie screen, currently being used for a winding-down drive-in theater.
Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent lifting of COVID restrictions, the event will still be ticketed the first three weeks to avoid possible overcrowding issues, according Wang, who was unbelievably “excited and borderline weepy,” to welcome back New York City on Saturday night.
“We are eager to get back to free, unrestricted admission, but I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the pent-up demand to eat, drink, congregate and mingle, so we want to ease into our season,” Wang said.
The ticket proceeds are being used to offset and waive vendor participation fees, and the event is pledging 20 percent of net ticket proceeds to initiatives that promote racial equity and to COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts. Tickets are $5 and should be purchased in advance. Children under 12 are free. (If tickets remain unsold for any night, tickets will be $8 at the door.)
The Queens Night Market will be free and open to the public again starting July 10.
As small businesses suffered a devastating financial loss amid the pandemic and are slowly recovering, de Blasio called on attendees to reach into their wallets and “spend your money.”
“Take the amount of money you thought you would spend at the Queens Night Market, double it or triple it. Because we want these small businesses to come back,” said de Blasio, as he commended Wang and his wife, Storm, on feeding healthcare workers during the pandemic.
“They went out and helped the people who helped us,” de Blasio added. “And so, we’ve got to thank them and thank all of the small businesses here by really giving everything we’ve got to them. And I need you to tell your friends to come back and make the night market strong and beautiful and stronger than ever.”
Doris echoed de Blasio’s calls in supporting over 70 small businesses at the Queens Night Market.
“Spend your money. Yes, that’s right. As much as you can, don’t go back home with anything, leave it all here,” Doris said. “You know why? Because they’ve been through a tough year and they need us.”
Over its first five seasons, the Queens Night Market welcomed well over 1 million visitors, helped launch over 300 brand-new businesses in New York, and represented over 90 countries through its vendors and their food. In its last operating season in 2019, the event averaged nearly 15,000 attendees each Saturday night. The event’s ever-popular $5 price cap on food (with some limited $6 exceptions) will remain in place.
“Our mission to be NYC’s most affordable, diverse and welcoming community event is really our north star. We try to be an oasis from the ever-increasing costs of living in NYC, while also celebrating the unparalleled diversity that makes this city so great,” Wang said.
The mission of the Queens Night Market is to feature traditional foods that may be hard to find in New York City, made by the people who grew up eating them.
The newer food entries this year include Venezuelan cachapas; Malaysian grilled skate wings; Sudanese kofta; Afghan mantu and shor nakhod; Indian tandoori barbecue; Haitian chocolate; Korean jjajangmyeon; Ecuadorian quimbolitos; Oaxacan chivo and lengua tacos; Belizean shark panades and conch ritters; Senegalese grilled suya and jollof rice; Tibetan tsel bhakleb and tsmathuk; Japanese dango; Antiguan black pudding; Palestinian makloubeh and mutabbal; and more.
This year will also feature many returning favorites, including Burmese palatas; Indonesian kue pancong and tahu pong; Peruvian ceviche; Persian crispy rice; Malaysian “ramly” burgers; Portuguese pasteis de nata; Romanian-Hungarian Kürtőskalács; and more.
The event also hosts plenty of art/merchandise vendors, and this year will include vintage apparel, hand-poured candles, skateboards, travel photography, crochet toys, stationery, small batch soap, henna, vintage brooches and ads, custom woodworks, NYC-themed apparel, gourmet dog treats, superhero art, calligraphy, handmade jewelry and “really bad portraits.”