Ring in the Lunar New Year in downtown Baton Rouge at the second Night Market BTR held Friday, February 9 from 6-9 p.m.
The event aims to celebrate the rich diversity across Baton Rouge by bringing together Asian American communities and allowing them to display their culture all in one place through music, art, entertainment and food and drink. The market, which drew massive crowds last year, will feature additional vendors, lion dances, music and more at its new location at Rhorer Plaza.
Night Market BTR curator Laura Siu Nguyen says the event is also an opportunity that allows those unfamiliar with Asian cultures to learn about new customs and traditions. While the inaugural festival celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, this February Night Market BTR allows the community to come together to understand and honor the Lunar New Year.
“Everybody is super excited and we get to celebrate something that is very special,” Nguyen says. “We celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is a brand-new beginning for a lot of people. It’s an opportunity for us to grow depending on the year’s animal. What my mom used to say is, ‘Hopefully the Dragon will give us strength and power to continue our journey through life.’”
The first 1,000 people to RSVP for the event will also get a chance to receive a lucky red envelope, a gift often given out to celebrate the holiday. Nguyen says the envelopes traditionally contain money and are gifted by married family members to children and unmarried adults. Sharing this tradition with the community is something Nguyen says she is most looking forward to at this Night Market.
This year’s market will make the shift to a new location with more entertainment and vendors. Nguyen says the growth can be attributed to the success of the inaugural market at Electric Depot last May. What Nguyen expected to be a small community gathering quickly became something more.
“I got so many reviews (after the first year),” she says. “Everybody was like ‘Laura, you need more space, more parking and more vendors because all the vendors sold out in the first hour.’”
Nguyen has been working closely with the Downtown Development District and Visit Baton Rouge to ensure that attendees and vendors get the most out of the market. Attendees can expect multiple parking options with short walks to the event, which will bedeck Rhorer Plaza in paper lanterns and string lights.
Nguyen also grew the vendor list from 20 vendors at the first market to 42 vendors for next month’s event. She says 32 of those vendors will be dishing out sweet and savory culinary items while the rest will either be offering art or activities for children and families.
When it comes to food vendors, Nguyen has her own tasty recommendations. She suggests trying custom sweets from Chocolate Bijoux, baos from Offset Smoker, cheesy sandwiches from Seoul of Philly and crispy Korean Corndogs from Tastea. There are also a few vendors traveling from New Orleans—like Oppa Korean Fried Chicken, with its double-fried Korean chicken, and Lufu Nola, a spot known for authentic Indian dishes.
Aside from the stacked list of vendors, Nguyen also has a full entertainment lineup for the night. Like last year, there will be another lion dance from Southern Lotus Lion Dance. Nguyen says this year’s performance will include a full team of about 30 lion dancers. There will also be appearances by LSU’s K-Pop Club, Vietnamese Student Associations, dancers, musicians and more.
Nguyen anticipates that having more room, live entertainment and even more vendors who have an idea of how large the crowds can get will yield an even more successful evening. But, she says the crowd size is nothing compared to the event’s impact on the community.
“My hope is to bring Baton Rouge together to celebrate Lunar New Year, a festival I grew up with,” she says. “I want to support our local vendors who share their cultures and stories at Night Market. This event is intended to amplify AAPI voices and to provide a platform for growth and story-sharing through food.”
Nguyen also hopes to continue to improve Night Market BTR for attendees so the event can be a “long-standing community staple.” There are also plans to have another Night Market in May at the same location to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.
Night Market BTR will be on Friday, Feb. 9, from 6-9 p.m. at Rhoerer Plaza. Find out more about the event’s long lineup of vendors and RSVP by visiting Night Market BTR’s website.