May 24, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
The culinary diversity of Queens will be on display when the Queens Night Market returns for its sixth season, beginning on June 19.
The weekly food festival, which was canceled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held each Saturday at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The market will open an hour earlier than previous years, from 4 p.m. to midnight each Saturday through October 30.
The number of attendees expected each week is likely to be down from previous years due to COVID-19 and state restrictions. In 2019, 15,000 people attended on an average Saturday.
The organizers are waiving the vendor participation fees to make up for the lower attendance—but will be charging a $5 entrance fee to offset their loss of revenue. The fee will be lifted once state capacity limits end.
At least 20 percent of the net entrance proceeds will go toward COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts as well as toward advancing racial equity, the organizers say.
“We’re unbelievably excited to welcome everyone back and hope our visitors don’t mind underwriting vendor fees until attendance restrictions are lifted. We just don’t want to hang our vendors out to dry financially after the tough year they’ve had,” said John Wang, founder of the Queens Night Market.
He adds that the pandemic has devastated the food vendor business, with an estimated 75 percent of the night market’s entrepreneurs having quit the business or put operations on halt.
Visitors will be required to wear masks for the time being, except while seated, eating or drinking.
Some of the food options that will be available are Filipino dishes like balut (fertilized duck egg) and dinuguan, Taiwanese popcorn chicken, Peruvian ceviche, Bengali fuss and Romanian chimney cakes.
Food prices will be capped at $5, though some limited exceptions will be sold at $6.
The affordable prices haven’t prevented the vendors from bringing in revenue in the past. Vendors averaged nearly $2,000 per night in sales in 2019, according to organizers.
In addition to food, the night market will also host art and merchandise vendors selling vintage apparel, gourmet dog treats, ceramics, local art and other items. There will be live performances including African dance troupes, capoeira, jazz bands and Chinese lion dances, among others.
“While we’re very mindful of the gravity and tragedy of what we’re coming out of as a city, state, and nation, we hope the Queens Night Market can represent a celebratory beacon of solidarity and really just a huge, collective sigh of relief,” Wang sand.