By CYNTHIA TANG
The smell of juicy meats wafted towards our noses as our eyes indulged in the sight of colorful desserts. Though it was only 6pm, the event’s crowd was already starting to grow, as more and more people—generally young Asian adults—filled the Orange County (OC) fairgrounds. Vendors shouted over the loud chatter and the sound of sizzling barbecued meats, enticing customers to come buy their unique delicacies. The OC Night Market had arrived.
The OC Night Market made its second appearance ever this October, with its first in May. The night market concept is not new; its origins can be traced to the popular and busy street vendors in Asian countries like Taiwan and China. The host of the OC Night Market is the 626 Night Market, which first successfully brought the idea of night markets to the United States. In April 2012, the 626 Night Market took place for the first time in Pasadena, California. On the official website, the mission goal is to “unite and empower the community by serving as a platform for showcasing local entrepreneurs, artists, and community groups.” Since 2012, the 626 Night Market has expanded to venues in Downtown Los Angeles and Orange County. But for those worried that the original 626 Night Market and the OC Night Market are different, Kevin Qu (Jr.), who has been to both, said that “The experience here and the one at the original is around the same experience. Most of the same vendors go and the size is the same too.”
The second annual OC Night Market took place this past weekend from October 10-12. University High School (UHS) students jumped at the opportunity to visit this special exhibition, and the market became a popular topic on social media sites over the weekend. “Social media definitely helped people know there was a night market here,” said Leandro Lebumfacil (Sr.). “I hadn’t heard of it before I checked my news feed.”
The night market recognized the powerful influence of social media, and had many workers walking around with cardboard cut-outs that resembled an Instagram post for people to come and take pictures with. Vendors also participated in emphasizing social media promotion; stands like Main Squeeze and Dolcissimo Bakeshop offered a free “photo booth” for customers to take pictures at. For those who didn’t first receive their information through social media, they usually received it by word of mouth. “I heard about the OC Night Market first from my friend, Ashley, and then from my parents who were particularly interested in it because of the apparent similarities to Asian night markets,” said Megan Ling (Sr.).
The unique foods and drinks offered there were a popular attraction for many. “Fusion foods, like the ramen burger, caught my eye,” Ling comments. Lisa Chen (Jr.) was particularly excited about the fun varieties of cuisines. “They had light up ice cubes in almost every drink and this succulent plant was actually ice cream.”
The event seemed particularly popular for high school seniors. “A friend of mine invited me to go and I thought it’d be a good opportunity to get food and just hang out,” says Lebumfacil. Biyonka Liang (Sr.) agreed, confessing that “To be honest, my favorite part was just goofing off with my friends. We’re all so caught up in our activities lately, especially with college apps due soon, that we haven’t had time to just relax and spend quality time with each other.”
The night market was not just popular with UHS students, but students across Irvine. Thomas Lee, a senior at Irvine High School, learned about the night market through “various videos and my good friend Cynthia’s posts on social media.” He and a group of other Irvine High seniors went to enjoy “the social experience and atmosphere that is not easily replicated anywhere else.”
Overall, it was a fun experience for all and many look forward to the night market’s return in 2015. Christine Ho (Jr.) says, “I felt like I was back in Taiwan and it felt fantastic. People should definitely check it out next time [the night market] is in town! It’s super fun, but I would recommend to starve for a day and then go there to indulge.”