Asian festival brings night market atmosphere to downtown Fargo – InForum

FARGO — Before Johan Lopez embarked on a three-and-a-half-hour trip to visit family for Memorial Day weekend, he decided to stop by the second annual Asian Night Market on Friday, May 26 in Fargo.

He loaded up a Filipino dish called pork adobo, then lined up at the Namaste Kitchen food truck for a Red Bull-infused chai tea and samosas.

“I saw this on social media and thought I’d drop by and eat well before my trip,” Lopez said before heading to another vendor.

Clear skies, a strong breeze and vendors ranging from artists, candle makers, photographers, bread makers and more made the festival feel like an Asian street market.

Even John and Sarah Huynh, owners of the Asian and American market, sold their wares outside the Plains Museum of Art.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to spread the word and meet different suppliers,” said Sarah Huynh.

“And it’s the first time we’ve been able to step out of the store for a different experience in a long time,” added John Huynh.

Left to right: Shayna Karuman, Phannara Kim, Sacred Mauricio and Hannah Flohr are the organizers of the Asian Night Market festival which held its second annual event on Friday, May 26, 2023.

CS Hagen / The Forum

Four organizers, all between the ages of 20 and 23, launched the event last year.

For North Dakota State University graduate Shayna Karuman, she needed to find an Asian community after the 2021 Atlanta Spa shootings that left eight people dead, including six Asians.

“It sent a lot of heartbreak in my community, and I didn’t have many Asian friends at the time,” Karuman said. “I decided to take this opportunity myself, and it turns out to be a good opportunity to have the whole community interact together.”

Last year the event was attended by around 14 vendors and around 300-400 people. This year, the event attracted 25 vendors and 700 people expressed interest in participating on social media, organizers said.

Branded with “fa cai mao” or prosperous kitty badges on their chests, they rushed between their own tables and their vendors as the event began around 5 p.m.

John Huynh and Sarah Huynh, in red, work their table during the Asian Night Market festival at the Plains Art Museum on Friday, May 26, 2023.jpg

John Huynh and Sarah Huynh, in red, work their table during the Asian Night Market festival at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo on Friday, May 26, 2023.

CS Hagen / The Forum

Organizer Phannara Kim, currently a student at NDSU, said it lacked a vibrant Asian community and night market atmosphere. Her father escaped Cambodia as a refugee, but growing up, Kim remembers the feeling of market life in her hometown of Burnsville, Minnesota.

“I wanted to have something like that here and give people the chance to learn about other cultures,” Kim said.

Two other organizers, Hannah Flohr and Sacred Mauricio, live in Fargo and said they want to plan the event during the month of May, which coincides with Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

“It was a great learning process, lots of little things like learning licenses, learning how to close a street,” Flohr said.

Not only is the festival a time for people to go out and try new foods, but young organizers have also been able to start networking and want to expand the market in the coming years, Mauricio said.

“The goal is to support and showcase local AAPI businesses,” Flohr said.

For Karuman, the market has also become a beneficial way for the local AAPI community to help each other grow, she said.

“It allows us to take a leap and start getting a clientele,” Karuman said, before returning to his candle-making stall.

Sponsors of the event included: Voices of Creative Change, Plains Art Museum, Folkways, Historical and Cultural Society and the New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment.

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