There’s a tentative, quietly joyful excitement you can feel in the air walking the four blocks from the 7 train’s 111 St. station to the Queens Night Market. Since it reopened on June 19 after a 20-month shutdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, passing under the overpass on the way is a little like entering an urban portal back to life BC (Before Covid).
The Flushing Meadows Corona Park market’s return is a watershed moment, a bridge point where aspects of the old normal integrate with the new normal. Approaching the wide gates behind the New York Hall of Science to enter has a different, more reverent energy to it in the summer of 2021. Closed for well over a year, what was once a pleasurable but casual excursion prepandemic feels more like a privilege and a gift now.
Both vendors and visitors have embraced the market’s comeback with a passion. “While we’ve had much bigger crowds in past years when we weren’t ticketing the event, we’ve never seen visitors so enthusiastic about getting out, mingling, staying the entire duration of the event, and supporting the vendors,” said market founder John Wang. “Even vendors who have been bringing double, sometimes triple, the supplies from their busiest nights ever have been selling out. It’s wonderful to get so much support from New Yorkers and of course to see all their beautiful smiling faces again.”
The $5 ticket charge was instituted to offset profit limitations for vendors due to Gov. Cuomo’s reduced capacity advisory at the market, but as of July 10 it was removed.
Early in the evening on a recent Saturday, the venue was comfortably crowded as long lines of market-goers waited to savor Tibetan momos, Indian samosas, Portuguese egg tarts, Venezuelan cachapas and many more, all capped at $5 and collectively fragrant in the evening heat. Fried ice cream and other desserts also beckoned invitingly.
A diversity of culture and cuisine by extension have long characterized the Queens community. The market is an edible representation of the borough’s multicultural demographic, bringing all together into a communal hub.
When it comes to entertainment, an event so supportive of local small businesses and entrepreneurship wouldn’t be complete without entertainment by local musicians and performers. A talented youth band from Queens School of Rock covered a broad range of musical genres from Black Sabbath to Kansas. They belted out “Crazy Train” and “Carry on Wayward Son,” soundtracking the bustle and flow of the market as spectators gathered on picnic benches and stood to listen, watch and record.
The market also features dance and other traditional cultural performances.
Since opening in 2015, the Queens Night Market has flourished. Approximately 100 vendors serve diverse and delicious cultural dishes, along with local artists and small business owners displaying their merchandise and creations. Wang’s vision of an open-air market in Queens like the ones he visited in Taiwan as a child is a solidly established and thriving reality.
Jose Alvarez, founder of the soap company Tree*Star, one of the vendors, is elated at the market’s return.
“The community at the Queens Night Market has received us with open arms and undying loyalty over the last couple of years,” Alvarez said. “Since its reopening, we’ve been able to serve old and new customers while significantly boosting revenue. It’s our home away from home, and we couldn’t be happier to be back.”
The market opens every Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight through Oct. 30.