By Victoria Merlino
The Queens International Night Market will open for its fifth season on April 20, welcoming all New Yorkers to Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Saturday nights for another year of food, fun and celebrations of Queens’ cultural diversity. Here are seven things to know (and get excited about) if you’re thinking of attending:
1. There will be new foods…
Since its debut in 2015, the Queens Night Market has featured over 80 countries through its vendors and their food. This year’s vendors will serve up new delicacies like Bashkir farm cheese donuts, Egyptian hawawshi, Singaporean mee pok and chai tow kway, Ukrainian blintzes, Indian Masala noodles and phulka, Brazilian pão de queijo and brigadeiros, Austrian paprikahendl, Puerto Rican pastelles and more.
Approximately 300 vendors have applied for this year’s market and two-thirds have already received spots, so there will be more to come. Check out the growing list of vendors here.
2. … And some old favorites.
New food doesn’t mean that old standbys won’t be back too. Queens Night Market staff confirmed that favorites like Mauritian biryani, Trinidadian shark sandwiches, Chinese sugar painting, Burmese palatas, Indonesian kue pancong, Ukrainian borscht, Asian duck baos, Jamaican jerk chicken, Indian kachori and parantha, Filipino balut, diniguan and lugaw and southern fried chicken will all be back.
3. It’s super affordable.
There is a $5 price cap on most food at the event, with a handful of vendors offering $6 foods this year. The price cap started in 2015 as a way to welcome the greatest number of New Yorkers to the market — and it has, with each Saturday night last season averaging over 10,000 attendees.
4. Part of the proceeds go toward a good cause.
At least 20 percent of the money made from the market’s two preview nights on April 20 and April 27 will go toward two charities: immigrant and refugee advocacy group New York Immigration Coalition, and New York City’s largest food rescue organization, City Harvest. Food insecurity and immigration issues are near and dear to the event’s mission, said Queens Night Market founder John Wang.
"Immigrants make up 69 percent of Queens entrepreneurs, continuing the borough's legacy of cultural diversity and neighborhood businesses. The Queens Night Market is a meaningful celebration of how immigrant communities support Queens, and how Queens can support immigrant communities,” added Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition in a statement.
5. It’s committed to supporting small businesses.
The Queens Night Market has launched approximately 250 new businesses in New York, and tries to help out vendors whenever it can. The market will open an hour earlier this year, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at midnight, to generate more revenue for vendors. The market has also lowered the fees for vendor entry this year in an attempt to widen the field of which businesses can participate.
6. It’s about more than just food.
In addition to the vendors, the Queens Night Market has another draw: live music and entertainment. Every Saturday night attendees can see several performances spanning genres and tastes, and the market has seen nearly 200 performances to date.
This year’s markets will feature an R&B/funk group, a blues band, a brass jazz quartet, a belly dancer, a street juggler, an all-female rock band, an all-female Afro-Brazilian percussion group, an all-kids rock band and a cover band.
7. It’s an event for the whole borough.
“For sure, every year I’ve sort of contemplated the idea of letting it go,” Wang, the event’s only main staff member told the Eagle. “Each year it sort of gets more and more popular. There’s a moment every Saturday night where you sort of look around [and it] looks like all of New York City’s there — it seems like all of New York City’s there — and everyone’s like super happy and they’ve got the family there and they’re all enjoying it, there’s smiles on everyone’s faces.”
“I know it sounds super cheesy but that’s sort of the reason I feel like it would be really hard to let go of,” Wang continued. “I think it’s made a huge community impact, it’s affected so many people’s lives. Not only the visitors, but all the vendors and all the small businesses. There’s a ripple effect that’s it’s caused.”
To find out more about the Queens Night Market, visit queensnightmarket.com.