Los Angeles used to be an industry town. No, I mean before THAT that industry. It used to be a farming community. And way back then, the farmers would gather and share their bounty and others would come and share baked goods or crafts and neighbors would sell various wares. It was a time of strong communities and this helped create our reputation as the home of some of the greaterst farmer's markets in the country.
These great markets help us build a sense of community. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could expand on that idea? I’m talking about Night Markets. And other communities are already doing this. We should too.
Night Markets are prevalent all over Asia and Europe. They bring together food purveyors, artists, crafters and local businesses in an evening “street fair” environment from 8 PM to midnight.
An Asian Night Market held their first event in April of this year and had more than 30 food booths, 50 retail vendors and more than 20,000 people in one short block in Pasadena. Organizers underestimated the popularity and had to turn away nearly 10,000 additional residents and experienced a crush of pedestrian and auto traffic. It was a huge success. And it’s only grown since then.
Can you imagine this in Silver Lake or Echo Park or Hollywood? The opportunity for small businesses to reach new customers; for crafters to reach consumers; for food vendors to find a niche and for neighbors to have a rummage sale with the entire community. Will the next Sprinkles Cupcakes come out of this? Or the next great artist? The next great desiger? Why not? What's stopping us?
Naysayers will claim that nighttime events increase crime. My argument to that is simple: when people feel connected to their community, they’re less likely to commit crimes in their neighborhood. Part of what leads to criminal behavior is isolation and that missing feeling of being a part of a connected community. Let's illuminate the night with the bright light of commerce and restore a sense of pride in the community at all hours of the day.
Can it work? Well, the San Gabriel Night Market had an event this weekend that had more than 150 vendors and more than 50,000 people. Yes, Night Markets can work and there's no reason Los Angeles shouldn't be the location for one of the best in the world.
Los Angeles is leading the country with our “farmers market” culture. Let’s do something for those of us that stay up later. We can build local businesses, increase our foodie credibility, create new opportunity and even more – we CAN bolster that sense of community that seems to be missing from this once thriving city.
Scott Crawford is a candidate in the March 5, 2013 election for the Los Angeles City Council District 13 seat.