Founded in 2014, Portland’s Jade International Night Market is the epitome of a multicultural community event. Strings of lights and lanterns illuminate the Southeast Portland parking lot where this annual event takes place. Scents of garlicky beef satay and crisp lumpia fill the air as children sit cross-legged during dragon dance performances. What started as a small volunteer group has expanded to keep up with attendance, which has grown to 20,000 attendees annually.
The origins of the Jade International Night Market
The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) founded the market following a series of workshops in which Jade District community members identified their needs. With “opportunities for community gathering” declared a top priority, the first Jade International Night Market was organized. The festival’s goal was to attract few hundred attendees. Incredibly, 6,000 people showed up.
Todd Struble, Jade District Manager at APANO, and fellow organizers Rosaline Hui and Nannette Tran work to ensure the event supports local values. Struble recalls that before they hosted the inaugural market, his team saw a void in the community. “Our volunteers recognized that there were no outdoor events that reflected the culture of the Jade District residents,” he said.
The Jade District Community
The Jade District is a lively neighborhood centered around the intersection of Southeast Division Street and Southeast 82nd Avenue. Although its borders cover less than one square mile (2.6 sq km), the district supports more than 400 small businesses. Many recent Asian immigrants and refugees call the Jade District home, and nearly 50% of all residents are people of color.
Night markets are integral to life in Asia, providing space for community members to shop, eat and socialize. The Jade International Night Market’s two stages also offer entertainment like Vietnamese and Bollywood dance and Japanese taiko drumming. For many in attendance, the Jade International Night Market is a welcome reminder of their roots.
“This event is important because it reflects the culture and diversity of Southeast Portland,” Strubel explained. “As one of the most diverse census tracts in the city of Portland, we try to ensure that vendors, performers and speakers all have a connection to this community and the folks who live and work here.”
The Night Market isn’t just a fun outdoor event, he said, but one that exists to support the surrounding community. “Our goal is to ensure that the stories, experiences and culture of the attendees build an experience that folks in this neighborhood can rally behind, and the event works to anchor the community.”