Is It Any Good?

I may have made a bad bet Saturday night.  Instead of going to “The Taste” over the weekend, I went to the fourth 626 Night Market, and…

Well…things changed a little bit.

The original plan for the 626 Night Markets for the Summer of 2013 was for there to be three weekends. All of them dutifully talked about on this site.

Then, at the last minute, they added a fourth added to the schedule. I figured “why not”. Even though it’s the last minute, they’ve all been popular. Even though it’s last minute, why not add to the fun?

Well, when I stepped onto the grounds, the whole “at the last minute” thing started to rear its ugly head.

The Santa Anita Park Refreshment Stands and Beer stalls that were open for the other three Night Markets were closed for this one.

The Kogi and Ludo Truck were not there. Never a good thing, even with their apocalyptically long lines.

For reasons I cannot fathom they rearranged the whole layout from the previous three Night Markets. Up on the main grounds where there used to be a mix of shops and eats, where now Food Trucks and Shops. Where the Food Trucks used to be, down in Section D, also known as the Appendix, where there was all Food. They even opened a Section F, a second Appendix if you will, with even more food.

Now, someone at the Night Market must’ve thought this would have been a tremendous convenience for the customers, having all the food in one place.

But it wasn’t. Here’s why.

One of the things the Santa Anita grounds offers the Night Market is infrastructure. Not just the Beer stands, but Bathrooms that are not Port-a-potties, trashcans (in addition to the ones brought in by the Night Market). There are even white fences where you can at least set down your food and enjoy yourself.

Most of all…there was seating. Not a huge amount of it, but enough where if you want a seat you can find one.

Down in the two appendixes, down in Sections D and F there is no seating. At all. There isn’t even a post to lean on and eat. Basically, you get your food and you’re on your own.

This...is section D.  Do you see any seats here?  Didn't think so.

This…is section D. Do you see any seats here? Didn’t think so.

Standing there.

Eating.

In the middle of a LOT of people.

But meanwhile, the area with all the Shops had the seating. I mean, if I bought a Bike (and they did have a Bike Shop at the Night Market), I could have sat down and looked it over. If I had gone to one of the Food Trucks, I could have sat down. But if I was in the main Food Area, I was out of luck.

Come 2014, the Night Market will return, and will be expanding into other parts of L.A. and Orange County…as well as staying in Arcadia. I do not expect to have the layout of the 2014 Night Market the exact same as the 2013 Night Market. That’d be ridiculous.

But compressing all the Food into a single area didn’t help the Night Market’s customers at all. I’d like the Night Market Organizers to imagine trying to fight your way through the crowds toward the seating.

The best layout was the one they had for Night Markets 1, 2 and 3. A Everywhere a mix of Shops and Restaurants, that way people have easier access to benches and places to sit. Hopefully, the Santa Anita Park Infrastructure will be in operation next year, which helps give people access to cold drinks and beer as they stroll through the Night Market.

It’s hard to jam in a fourth event at the last minute, and I’m sure the last minute nature of things helped make things extra confusing. Even some of the Volunteers acknowledged that things were a little weird this time out. I’m sure the last minute nature contributed to Santa Anita not being as open as I remember them from previous events.

Still, either way, the Summer’s over. The Night Markets were a huge success, and more are on the way. And that, as always, is a damn good thing.