Asian festival brings night market atmosphere to downtown Fargo
Clear skies, a strong breeze and vendors ranging from artists, candle makers, photographers, bread makers and more gave the festival a feeling of being in an Asian street market.
FARGO — Before Johan Lopez embarked on a three-and-a-half hour long journey to visit his 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 with a Filipino dish called pork adobo, and then got in line at the Namaste Kitchen food truck for a Red Bull infused chai tea and samosas.
“I saw this through social media and thought I would swing by and get some good food 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 gave the festival a feeling of being in an Asian street market.
Even John and Sarah Huynh, owners of the Asian & American Market, were selling their wares outside the Plains Art Museum.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to spread the word and to meet different vendors,” Sarah Huynh said.
“And it’s the first time we’ve been able to get out of the store for a different experience in a long time,” John Huynh added.
Four organizers, all between the ages of 20 and 23, began the event last year.
For Shayna Karuman, a North Dakota State University graduate, she needed to find an Asian community after the Atlanta Spa shootings in 2021 that left eight people dead, six of them Asians.
“That sent a lot of grief through my community, and I didn’t have a lot of Asian friends then," Karuman said. "I decided to make that opportunity for myself, and this is turning out to be a good opportunity to have all of the community interact together."
Last year the event had about 14 vendors and around 300-400 people attending. This year, the event has brought in 25 vendors, and 700 people expressed interest in attending on social media, organizers said.
Marked with "fa cai mao" or the prosperous kitty badges on their chest, they hurried between their own tables and vendors as the event started around 5 p.m.
Organizer Phannara Kim, currently a student at NDSU, said he missed having a vibrant Asian community and a night market atmosphere. His father escaped from Cambodia as a refugee, but growing up Kim remembers the feeling of the market life from his hometown of Burnsville, Minnesota.
“I wanted to have something like that here and give people the chance to experience other cultures,” Kim said.
Two other organizers, Hannah Flohr and Sacred Mauricio, live in Fargo, and said they wanted to plan the event during the month of May, which coincides with Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
“It’s been a great learning process, a lot of small things like learning about licensing, learning how to close down a street,” Flohr said.
Not only is the festival a time for people to get outdoors and try new foods, the young organizers have also been able to begin building a network and want to expand the market in future years, Mauricio said.
“The purpose 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.
“This allows us to get a jump and begin having a customer base,” said Karuman, before she returned to her candle-making stand.
Some of the 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.