Last month, the Little Saigon Night Market took over a parking lot at South Federal Boulevard and Mississippi Avenue and put on an event not often seen in that part of town. Hundreds came out to gulp down pho and see the show, and many stuck around until 10 p.m. despite fairly rainy weather
Afterward, many people wrote to Denverite asking when the next event might be. Business owners on the stretch also reached out to WalkDenver, who put on the event, for an encore. WalkDenver has about $10,000 left from a grant for another night market, and they’re happy to meet the demand.
The next market, dubbed the Mid-Autumn Festival, will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Far East Center, the large, arch-adorned shopping center at Federal and Alameda Avenue. It sits at the north end of a stretch that WalkDenver and local stakeholders hope will become a new business improvement district (BID) to represent the diverse businesses there.
Besides pleasing Denverites looking for something to do, these markets are meant to show business and landowners the power of working together. Half of the property owners in the proposed district must sign on before the plan goes to voters, but not everyone is on board yet.
Cindy Ambs, a neighborhood organizer with WalkDenver, said the first event was a good start. Business owners at the Little Saigon district told her they doubled or tripled their sales during the first event and are eager for more.
The next market’s move to the Far East Center shows how organizers hope to expand their charm offensive. Thanh Luong and his brother own the Far East Center, the biggest parcel on the strip. Their family’s buy-in will be crucial to moving the BID effort forward.
Lucky for BID advocates, Thanh Luong’s daughter, Mimi Luong, is pushing for her family’s support. She’s been integral in organizing the next market, and she said she’s hopeful her father and uncle will come around.
While business owners like the idea, property owners are a little more cautious, as they will bear most of the cost. This is especially true for Mimi’s family, since the Far East Center is so large.
“Everything is going up, the taxes are going up,” she said. “We could be pulled in to pay a lot.”
It took some work convincing her uncle and the business owners to shut down the Far East Center’s parking lot for the event — the latter feared they’d lose regular morning business — but she’s confident September’s night market will pay off. She sees the BID and future events like this as a tide raising everyone’s fortunes. Though she’ll probably have a lot more work to do if the district is approved, she said the responsibility is a “blessing” and a “dream.”
“We’re going to see how this event goes,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I really have to show my dad and uncle.”
The Mid-Autumn Festival will celebrate mid-year of the lunar calendar, which many Asian cultures follow. Mimi said it’s a holiday for kids, so she and organizers are working to curate attractions for the whole family. She expects the pho-eating contest will return, and probably a moon cake-eating contest, lanterns and more music. She added that the culinary focus this time around will be on Asian street food, and she’s working with vendors to dream up fare not offered on their normal menus.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” she said. “I am taking everything and soaking it in and making it the best that I can.”