A celebration of community, diversity and a foodie's paradise could be found at the Alameda County Fairgrounds last weekend, when the NorCal Night Market returned to Pleasanton for its second year.
Inspired by the famous open-air nighttime bazaars of Asia, the NorCal Night Market brought hundreds of food vendors, artists and shops to the fairgrounds over Memorial Day weekend, along with a large collection of games, live musical performances and special events for the whole family.
The NorCal Night Market can find its roots in Orange County where the event's organizer, 626 Night Market, held its first night market-themed event, expanding its operations to Northern California for the first time last year.
"Bring on the memories. Whether you spent your childhood at night markets in Asia, met your true love at one of our events in California or decided to have FWBs (food with benefits) forever, bring on the memories and create new ones," Night Market spokesperson Holly Nguyen said.
Pleasanton's market featured a large variety of events and vendors for attendees to explore, but perhaps the biggest draw of each night was the assortment of food options that ranged from classic Californian food trucks to traditional street snacks found in Asia.
"The food," said Concord's Jackie Macayan when asked why she attended the event with her family, a sentiment echoed by many in attendance. "They have a really good selection. It's not super crowded and there's so much stuff that there isn't really long lines for everything. And it's really family-friendly."
At the event, foodies could choose from a diverse mix of bites that included potato swirls, corn on the cob, corn dogs baked in hot Cheetos, ramen with all the fixings, sushi, lobster shells on noodles, brisket, chicken cheese nachos, garlic shrimp, island barbecue, Filipino street food, teriyaki skewers, jumbo gyros and many other options.
"It's great, the food is very spread out. We did two laps before we figured out what we wanted there's a lot of options," said Pleasanton's Lisa Kadel, who attended the market with her two daughters. "I saw it last year but we kept missing them. We actually read about it in the Pleasanton Weekly ... The idea of a community event, the idea of shopping, and of course the food really (attracted us)."
While food is a vital part of any successful night market, another highlight during the evenings for many attendees, was the NorCal Art Walk, which featured a variety of media from some of Northern California's most talented artists.
"It's going good, a lot of good people here today and the other vendors are really helpful, really friendly and we're all looking out together, which is really nice," said Dublin's Jarold Cadionart, a portrait artist who was giving live demonstrations at his stand on the art walk.
Located to the right of the market's main entrance, the colorful art walk featured a row of artists showing off their crafts ranging from watercolor to jewelry making -- and many of whom were return vendors from last year's market and just fans of the event itself.
"I actually attended the 626 Night Market down in L.A. years ago and I was really impressed with how well run it was. I saw all of the other artists doing the art walk and having a really good time and it seemed really well run. So when they opened the NorCal Night Market last year, I thought, 'Oh great I'm going to apply,'" said Ashley Boyd, an artist from Foster City.
This was Boyd's second year displaying her art at the market, which she says has only improved upon itself from the previous year. Boyd added that the NorCal market was "comparable" to its Orange County counterpart, but Pleasanton's event was less crowded, making the space more easy to explore.
Other entertainment included a special musical performance by Pleasanton native, singer and dancer Maddie B, the sixth annual Horizon hip hop dance contest, dazzling lights illuminations, live DJ performances, magicians, carnival games, photo booths and fashionable vendors.
Locals who missed last weekend's festivities are in luck, because the NorCal Night Market is scheduled to return to the fairgrounds for a second weekend starting July 26 and again for a third on the weekend of Sept. 20.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.norcalnightmarket.com.