At the last second, we restrained ourselves from hitting the 110 Freeway to attend (626) Night Market, basically for the same reasons we avoided Coachella this year: the crowds. It turns out the Pasadena food event became mobbed on Saturday, leading quickly to spiteful criticisms of the event's organizers, after crowds packed by the thousands attempted cramming onto a narrow street with seemingly little systems in place. In fact, one could spend their entire day procrastinating on filing taxes by reading through the colorful insults on Yelp, Facebook, and Chowhound, left by people dying to reconnect to the Asian night markets of their youths or travels, only to be disappointed by the insane traffic, non-existent parking, sparse servings, and total lack of order. Now, the event's overseers are trying to make amends while considering whether to do it all over again.
In a comment on Facebook, organizers explain:
We'd like to thank everyone who came out tonight to the 626 Night Market. With all your tremendous support in spreading the word about tonight, we had an overwhelming turnout that far exceeded every group involved's projections for a first time event. With that huge turnout came frustrating experiences that taxed the plans we had in place. We will take time to thoroughly review. Thank you for your patience tonight and understanding.
Johnny and Janet Hwang and Brian Gi, the three organizers of Saturday's packed night market, tell L.A. Weekly today that they had no way of knowing how many guests would actually show up. Though rattled by the criticisms, they might plan another stab at throwing the event once they digest all the inconveniences they caused. Gi tells Squid Ink, "Hopefully, people might be willing to give us a second chance if we mitigate all the problems we had the first time and show them we listened to all the comments. We're trying to improve for our supporters."
Fortunately, all is not lost but a few hours of a Saturday night. Plus, there is some encouraging news here, too. On the brighter side, the frustration at least sounds like it became a boon for restaurants placed outside of the chaos, as columns of disappointed diners flocked to their nearest dinner options. Also, as many are pointing out, the event showed the incredible demand for and interest in interactive food-based events that get us out of the house and mingling with one another.
Given Los Angeles' esteemed reputation for street food and cheap eats, we tend to think that events highlighting independent food vendors and restaurants should be better woven into L.A.'s day-to-day existence, much like our farmers markets and food truck lots. Instead of sporadically drawing tens of thousands of people at once like the models at L.A. Street Food Fest and (626) Night Market, street food really should have a clearer, more stable presence on our streets.
A rise of street food venues or safe zones would giving us frequent opportunities to get out and try new things while meeting our neighbors, without trying to squeeze an entire genre of eating into a single space or night, cutting down on transport, disappointment, and general clusterfucking. Maybe we don't need (626) Night Market in the Rose Bowl, but a profusion of real night markets and options like the former Breed Street collection that make walking, talking, and eating our new local specialty.