Recap: the 97 Street Night Market, 2014 edition

On August 23, 2014, the second annual 97 Street Night Market took place in the heart of Chinatown.

97 Street Night Market

97 Street Night Market

Closing off part of 106 Avenue just off of 97 Street ensured we were accessible, and adjacent to several of the neighbourhood’s most popular restaurants.

97 Street Night Market

Lion dance

The market built on much of the foundation we had established last year, comprised of vendors, Asian-themed food trucks, dynamic performers and walking tours.

97 Street Night Market

Food trucks

New this year to our vendors was Sunny Snapshots. They provided attendees with the chance to take home a keepsake of the market with a photobooth picture (and props to enhance the shots!). The photos are also online in a digital format, for handy sharing.

Sharon and Felicia

Felicia and I crammed our props inside the booth

Rory Lee, a local artist, also committed to live painting a piece during the market. Many onlookers watched to see the progress he made throughout the night.

97 Street Night Market

Rory Lee

We were fortunate to have Molly’s Eats back for a second year, who was joined by Nhon Hoa and Yellowbird. They provided a nice variety of dishes, from banh mi to sesame fish tacos. I personally enjoyed the braised beef shank wrapped in a green onion pancake from Molly’s Eats.

97 Street Night Market

Fried rolls with beef from Molly’s Eats

The stage that night hosted a range of performers demonstrating more traditional arts to those who practice more modern endeavors. And they were all fantastic.

97 Street Night Market

The sidelines were full that night

Vivian Tao, a twelve year old master of the Chinese guzheng, blew the crowd away with her talent. Wing Choy of the Red Dragon Tai Chi Club enthusiastically led a tai chi lesson. The Sung Lee Taekwondo Demo Team brought their A-game with their high energy routine.

97 Street Night Market

Vivian Tao

97 Street Night Market

Wing Choy

97 Street Night Market

Sung Lee Taekwondo Demo Team

We also had two great K-pop dance crews: Rise to Beat and a favourite from last year, Convergence Dance Crew. Someone suggested we host a “dance off” in the future, but both crews are so passionate it would be hard to choose a winner!

97 Street Night Market

Rise to Beat

Of all the elements of the night market, walking tours are perhaps closest to my heart. They’re something I always seek out when travelling, since they’re a great way to learn about the history and geography of a neighbourhood.

97 Street Night Market

Returning guides Peter Wong and Lan Chan-Marples lead a Chinatown history tour

This year, I was most proud of the fact that we added a new tour to the mix that was all about the area’s culinary gems. A popular way to learn about Chinatowns all over North America, I was happy to finally bring such a concept back to Edmonton (I heard Judy Schultz, formerly of the Edmonton Journal, used to lead such tours herself).

97 Street Night Market

Tour participants enjoy samples at Ying Fat

Wild Tangerine’s Wilson and Judy Wu did a phenomenal job introducing five of Chinatown’s food businesses to a small group of lucky individuals (we unfortunately couldn’t take everyone who was interested in the tour!). The food-filled stops included Ying Fat, Edmonton’s fresh tofu factory, who go through 1000 pounds of non-gmo soybeans sourced from Ontario, and Hing Lung, a barbecue shop that cures and roasts its own meat.

97 Street Night Market

How many people can fit into Hing Lung?

The tour feedback was great; some commented that they would have gladly paid for the tour! Many participants also remarked that they now felt less intimidated in Chinatown, and would soon return to patronize the shops they now feel familiar with. Food tours in Edmonton’s Chinatown are definitely an untapped opportunity; I’m hopeful someone will pick up the torch in the future.

97 Street Night Market

The market after dark

Overall, I am proud of what we achieved with the 97 Street Night Market. We not only created a vibrant, safe gathering place in Chinatown, but also highlighted some of what the neighbourhood has to offer.

97 Street Night Market

With my co-organizers, Maria and Roxanne

Thanks to those who attended this year!

97 Street Night Market: August 23, 2014

Last August, I was a part of a group that organized the inaugural 97 Street Night Market. The group was comprised of a number of young second-generation Chinese Canadians, and the market was our way to create a lively, energetic gathering to inspire a new vision for the neighbourhood.

97 Street Night Market
2013 Night Market

In many ways, I think we succeeded. It was heartening to see people of all generations from many different backgrounds convening in a single parking lot, feasting, shopping, and otherwise socializing. It was a gathering place not normally found in Chinatown, and one that I hoped would be replicated in the future.

97 Street Night Market
Fortune sticks were really popular that night!

A lot of things came together to make that event happen – from gathering some of Edmonton’s food trucks to serve up Asian-themed dishes, to organizing walking tours of the area, vendors to sell trinkets and other typical night market finds, and securing performers who fit the spirit of the market.

My favourite act was Convergence Dance Crew

We developed connections with like-minded groups and at the time, knew that the market would allow us to build towards other events in the future.

On August 23, 2014, from 6-10pm, we will be hosting our second 97 Street Night Market. This time, we will be situated right in the heart of Chinatown, at 97 Street and 106 Avenue.

2014 Poster and Postcard - modified

We will be building on the momentum from last year, and have invited some of the same food trucks and vendors to return. Molly’s Eats had a menu that was hard to beat, but Susan may have outdone herself again this year – check out the menus from Molly’s, Nhon Hoa and Yellowbird here.

97 Street Night Market
Molly’s Eats feeding the crowd

The tours were so popular that we knew we had to ask our volunteer guides back. The detailed schedule is here, but were thrilled to have Lan Chan-Marples and Peter Wong lead not one, but two historical tours this year, and Paul Giang returns to deliver a perspective on art in Chinatown. New this year (and something I’m most excited about), is our food tour. I’ve long thought Edmonton’s Chinatown deserves its own culinary walking tour, and I can finally say it’s happening! Wild Tangerine’s Wilson Wu will be guiding a small group through some of Chinatown’s food gems, complete with samples along the way. There are limited spaces, so it is first come, first served!

We’ll have a host of great performers. Convergence is back, and we’ve added a second K-pop dance group as well, R2B. Also joining us this year is a martial arts group and a tai chi instructor! We’ll be posting the performance schedule next week.

Our goal for the 97 Street Night Market is to ensure that Chinatown isn’t forgotten. Join us on August 23, 2014 to explore, taste and see what Edmonton Chinatown has to offer!

Find out more on our website, and follow us on Twitter at @yegchinatown.

Recap: 97 Street Night Market

Over the summer, I worked with a team of volunteers to put on an event that we hoped would encourage Edmontonians to rediscover Chinatown. The neighbourhood is so full of history and possibility, but has largely been overlooked over the last number of years. While we recognized that the Business Revitalization Zone and to a greater extent, the McCauley Revitalization Strategy, had attempted to facilitate positive developments, we believed that something different was needed to foster the imagination of what Chinatown could be.

From there, the 97 Street Night Market was born. With a generous grant from the City and some committed supporters, we were able to transform a vacant parking lot into a welcoming space that introduced or reacquainted patrons with the dynamic nature of night markets right in the heart of Chinatown.

97 Street Night Market

97 Street Night Market

Vendors were the commercial anchor for the event, and we were happy to have engaged some area businesses, including Universal Music and Pacific Café, as well as others from around the city. The range of trinkets to fashion items was varied enough for visitors of all ages!

97 Street Night Market

Gama

No doubt, one of the most popular booths that day was actually one of ours – we had borrowed a set of fortune sticks from the Edmonton Chinese Bilingual Education Association, and volunteers sold fortunes for $1 a pop. That night, nearly 200 fortunes were told!

97 Street Night Market

Step right up!

We were fortunate to have The Lingnan Express, Molly’s Eats and Swich on-site, offering Asian-inspired dishes, including oyster omelettes, curried fish balls and matcha green tea ice cream sandwiches. Though not from the window of a food truck, Gama was able to offer another night market staple – bubble tea.

97 Street Night Market

Food trucks

97 Street Night Market

Char siu pulled pork sandwich from Molly’s Eats

In addition, the market provided us with an opportunity to highlight many young performers. Some were more traditional, such as 5 Elements, who opened the evening with an engaging lion dance, while others displayed a fusion of cultures, including Nanyen Lau, who played the Titanic anthem of “My Heart Will Go On” on an erhu.

97 Street Night Market

5 Elements

97 Street Night Market

Edmonton Chinese Dance Academy

My favourite act was the energetic Convergence Dance Crew, who drew the biggest crowds to the stage with their infectious K-pop covers of Psy’s recent hits.

Convergence Dance Crew

Patrons also had the chance to participate in three different walking tours of the neighbourhood that highlighted various facets of Chinatown. The first had nearly thirty participants so engrossed in the tour the guides ended up doubling the originally-intended length! No question, we learned that tours of all varieties should be offered of Chinatown on a regular basis; people are curious, and want to learn about the neighbourhood’s rich history and hopeful future.

97 Street Night Market

Tour group

For me, it was the creation of a neutral, safe space that most excited me. The perceived “ethnicity” of Chinatown is daunting to some who aren’t familiar with its businesses, while for others, the stereotype of an unsafe, neglected neighbourhood discourages exploration. That night, it was heartening to see people of all generations from many different backgrounds convening in a single parking lot, feasting, shopping, and otherwise socializing. It was a gathering place not normally found in Chinatown, and one that I hope will be replicated in the future.

97 Street Night Market

Beautiful sunset

There are a litany of people to thank who helped make this event a reality. Qualico and Ledcor generously donated the site, and worked around our request, in spite of the ongoing demolition of the building directly south of the lot. Jane Molstad of the McCauley Revitalization Strategy immediately recognized the potential of this idea, and worked tirelessly to ensure the grant came through! We also couldn’t have done without the enthusiastic and hard working day-of volunteers. Lastly, thanks to all those who came, taking a chance on a first time event!

I’ve been asked more than once if the night market will become an annual event. Although I can’t answer the question definitively yet, I can say that a few of us are working to continue the momentum we began that day in some form or another. Stay tuned!

Rediscovering Chinatown: 97 Street Night Market

I remember spending weekends in Chinatown with my parents as a kid. It was always busy; parking was hard to come by, and the sidewalks were lined with people shuffling from shop to shop. At the time, I’m not sure I understood why my Mum would drag us to four seemingly identical grocery stores, but now, I understand it was not only the price differential, but the fact that each establishment offered a particular specialty that was worth seeking out.

In my teenage years, I accompanied my parents on their errands less and less, though on the odd occasion out and about in Chinatown, it was evident the neighbourhood was changing – businesses once vibrant were shuttered, buildings were falling into disarray, and the streets were noticeably quieter. I’m sure the opening of megastore T & T didn’t help matters, offering convenience and easy parking, but the visual aesthetics of Chinatown – neglected and unkempt – probably also didn’t do much to boost the image of the district.

Chinatown

Chinatown today

Five years ago, I began to rediscover Chinatown. My office is within walking distance of the main shopping hub, and at lunch time and after work, I’d pop over for a bowl of pho at Pho Tau Bay, a banh mi from Nhon Hoa or pick up a box of buns from Garden Bakery for breakfast. For Asian groceries, Lucky 97 is my first stop, while Ying Fat meets all of my tofu needs. And though not Asian at all, the Italian Bakery is my go-to deli.

You can now find me in Chinatown at least once a week, eating, shopping and appreciating a neighbourhood that is still very much pedestrian-oriented. We now celebrate streets like the 104 Street Promenade and 124 Street for their walkability, independent businesses and diversity – but what about Chinatown?

The area has made some strides in recent years, adding Urban China, and its new sister eatery Urban Shabu, which have helped draw crowds as destination restaurants. The Wild Rose Circle Project, with housing and retail, is finally under construction, and the McCauley Revitalization Strategy continues on. But in the short term, what else can be done to encourage Edmontonians to discover or rediscover their Chinatown?

I am part of a new group called Our Chinatown. We are a group of young professionals working to revive Edmonton’s Chinatown – reclaim its heritage, embrace its present and imagine its future. As our inaugural event, we are organizing a night market as a way to create a lively, energetic gathering that inspires a new vision for the neighbourhood.

Event: 97 Street Night Market
Date: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Time: 6-10pm
Location: parking lot on 97 Street, south of 105 Avenue

Heritage Chinatown Night MarketPart of our organizing team

Building on the success of the Heritage Night Market organized by the Chinese Benevolent Association on July 1, 2013, our market will set a different tone, anchored by a DJ and three food trucks.

We’re thrilled to have The Lingnan Express, Molly’s Eats and Swich offer Asian-inspired dishes, which will include ever-popular night market items like curried fish balls, green onion cakes and oyster omelettes, and modern takes on Asian cuisine such as Korean smoked meat and matcha ice cream sandwiches. Gama will also be serving up bubble tea! Check out the menus here.

Besides food, vendors also form the cornerstone of night markets, and we’ve assembled a great selection of items for your shopping pleasure! You will find everything from accessories to clothing, CDs and movies, toys and stationary to hand-made art and keepsakes.

Heritage Chinatown Night MarketHeritage Night Market vendor

We’re also excited that a few young performance groups will be on hand for entertainment. 5 Elements Drums and Lion Dance Crew will help us kick off the market at 6pm, and at 8pm, Convergence Dance Crew will bring us their best K-pop dance covers! I had the pleasure of watching Convergence at this weekend’s Heritage Festival – they just nailed Psy’s Gentleman!

Convergence Dance Crew!

For those who are interested in learning more about Chinatown’s past, present or future, we have also lined up several tours on the history, future development and artistic side of the neighbourhood. The schedule will be posted on the website on Tuesday.

August 17 is shaping up to be a Chinatown equivalent of Downtown’s Super Saturday. The Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival rocks the North Saskatchewan River from 9am-5pm in Louise McKinney Park, while the 5th Annual East Meets West Festival runs 11am-8pm on 107 Avenue and 99 Street. End your day at the 97 Street Night Market from 6-10pm.

We hope you’ll join us in (re)discovering our Chinatown on August 17!