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Photo by Jack Daly

Alicia Sanchez boomed into a microphone on a makeshift stage in the pouring rain at the head of her band, Infusion. The dozens of tents sprawled out before her sent smoke spiraling into the air as she fought to make her voice heard through a crowd of thousands.

“We try to reflect the diversity of the Americas through music. This is about people coming together through food, and that’s why we love playing here,” Sanchez said. 

Queens Night Market brought together over 80 independent food vendors in Flushing Meadows Park every Saturday to sell dishes capped at $6 per plate.

The food on offer ranged from Brazilian steak sandwiches to street food from Hong Kong. Founder John Wang took inspiration from his childhood experience of Taiwanese Night Markets, deciding in 2015 to create his own reflecting the different cultures of New York City.

Now averaging 9,000 visitors per night in its seventh season, the Market has steadily grown year after year largely due to a strong presence on social media. Standing among dozens waiting in line for fried ice cream, Mark, who did not want to his real name, pointed toward a neighboring stand specializing in Asian buns and bubble tea. “I just had a bunch of fried pork dumplings from over there and it’s the best plate I’ve had here so far,” he said.

In each tent, chefs sweated in the heat of the summer made hotter still by the flaming grills they cook on. Different languages were heard at each tent as staff shout back and forth to each other in effort to keep up with demand. Opposite long rows of burning cookfires sat art vendors selling their work. Sandwiched between a henna tattoo artist and a man offering self-proclaimed “Really Bad Portraits” was a table filled with sculptures. 

Gregory Valentine and his family made sculptures ranging from Pokemon to Predator. They use only paint and masking tape as raw material. 

“I have been sculpting forever, but only started working with masking tape a few years ago. It’s so much more flexible than clay, you can do a lot more with it and still hold the shape,” Valentine explained. This is their second season selling at the Night Market. The exposure connected him to people requesting custom orders of dinosaurs or their pets. 

“This place has done a lot to support my business. I just wish it was more than one night a week,” Valentine added.  

While admission to the market was free throughout the summer, two sneak preview events were held at limited capacity in April for $5 per ticket. Twenty percent of the profits were donated to charity. 

Last year’s funds went to local charities offering aid to those impacted by COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida. This year, however, the donation was made in some part to aiding Ukraine with the majority going to Queens Rising. The event’s organizer cites his dedication to giving back to the local community as his reason for this.

Queens Rising is an organization that advocates for local artists of any discipline and connects them with opportunities for exposure. They partner with different businesses and venues throughout the borough with the goal of promoting Queens arts and culture on a larger scale.

Their marketing campaign included a month-long celebration of dance and music performances throughout June, the launch of which took place at the Night Market on June 4. 

Featured artists included Fanike! African Dance Troupe, the Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul, and the Hawaiian hula dance group Na Pua Mai Ka Lani Nuioka. Queens Night Market operated every Saturday through Aug. 20. 

The popularity of the food on offer led to the launch of a cookbook available for purchase on the Queens Night Market website. Featured within it are 88 traditional home recipes from more than 40 countries. With a tagline dedicated to all the vendors of the Queens Night Market, the book is titled “The World Eats Here.”