Queens Night Market Opens for 5th Season

  • The Queens Night Market "Sneak Preview" on April 27. (All photos by Heejeong Yu for Voices of NY)

The Queens Night Market, with a huge array of international food vendors, other merchants and scheduled live entertainment, opens for its fifth season this Saturday May 4. Admission is free and food item prices have been capped at $5 – with just a few exceptions at $6, said the market’s founder John Wang. Since it opened in 2015, more than one million visitors have flocked to the market, which runs Saturdays during the summer months from 5 pm to 12 am, outdoors behind the New York Hall of Science at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Newer food entries this year include Syrian lamb kibbeh; Bashkir farm cheese donuts; Norwegian fårikål and fiskegrot; Egyptian hawawshi; Singaporean mee pok and chai tow kway; Peruvian quinoa chaufa & pan con chicharron; Ukrainian blintzes and much more. Many vendors at the market are just getting started, and Wang said the market, in representing 90 countries through vendors and their food, has over the past four years helped to launch 250 businesses.

This year there will be more than 50 food vendors and more than 20 art vendors, with more still signing up.

Two preview nights were held on April 20 and 27, and Voices of NY intern Heejeong Yu visited on April 27, sampled the food and took some photos.

Storm Garner at her Queens Night Market Oral History display April 27 at Columbia University. (Photo by Karen Pennar for Voices of NY)

Meanwhile, also on April 27, Storm Garner, a student in the Oral History master’s program at Columbia University, participated in an interactive oral history exhibit at the Faculty House at Columbia University, with clips of recordings from vendors at the Queens Night Market. Garner – who happens to be married to Wang – is pursuing a larger project of documenting the Queens Night Market, which she calls “an enormous social experiment.”

Garner has interviewed 15 vendors so far, with many more in the works.  It’s clear, she says, that there is no single immigrant narrative. One interviewee worried that she “hadn’t suffered enough” to be a suitable candidate for an interview, while others, Garner said, were reluctant to step forward and share insights that “might not be all that safe to share.” Garner will be archiving interviews at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky, which not only has the capacity to preserve and put lots of data online quickly, but also can safely close sensitive interviews to the public for a specified period of time.

For some of Garner’s interview subjects, their own particular immigrant experience came into sharp relief with the experience of rubbing shoulders with vendors and visitors from so many countries and cultures.

“There’s this idea of feeling accepted…I’m not a minority [here]…it’s too diverse to say there’s a minority,” said Christine Jeanjaquet in one of the audio clips Garner shared at the exhibit. Filipino-born Jeanjaquet, who sells specialty gifts at the night market and also sells online at The August Tree, says she derives a good portion of her business from selling at the market. In her interview with Garner, she reflected on her early days of working in the U.S. when, she said, “I felt my color, I felt my accent.” She worked in a museum shop, and then for a Filipino company, but she didn’t feel comfortable in either setting.

What’s more, she was told her accent was “a problem” for some people, and people thought she wasn’t well-educated. “On a daily basis,” said Jeanjaquet, “I had to defend my university degree.” At the Queens Night Market, she said, “you have the Chileans, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Japanese…the feeling of belonging, it’s…it’s a very, very nice place to be at. It’s even better than the place I call originally home, I think.”

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