It is almost time for the annual Night It Up night market. The weekend-long event takes place from July 13 – 15 at the Markham Civic Centre. Here's a preview of what to expect at this year's show.
The highly popular night market (last year it attracted over 100,000 attendees over the weekend) brings together the best aspects of popular Asian hawker markets for a food and music filled festival. The event is, first and foremost about street food, with dozens of hawker stands set up serving everything from meat skewers, to murtabak (a crowd favourite), to smelly tofu (another crowd favourite), oysters, and all sorts of fried sweets. The festival also features a variety of live performers that take the stage to keep the crowds entertained.
I had the chance to chat with Renée Hung, one of the principals behind Night It Up, about this year's festivities.
Suresh Doss: The annual Night It Up festival draws a large crowd every year. It seems like its getting bigger and bigger each time. What do you think is the big attraction?
Renée Hung: What I think draws people to Night It Up! is the atmosphere. The food, which is the major attraction of NIU!, is reminiscent of typical night markets in Asia and evokes warm memories of home for a lot of Chinese-Canadians. Not only that, but Night It Up! strives to stand out from all the other night markets in the GTA, with the CCYAA Sports Zone, Paint-A-Thon, Outdoor Movie Screening, and this year NBA 3X @905, there is something for everybody.
SD: Would you say that Night It Up attendees have very good palates as foodies because of the various types of food at the event?
RH: I would say that Night It Up! patrons appreciate the different types of food that is offered at NIU! and gravitate towards dishes that they can't necessarily find elsewhere. What's special about NIU! I think is that foodies and those that don't consider themselves foodies can all enjoy the different types of food.
SD: Can you give me an idea of what kind of vendors are debuting this year?
RH: There is one vendor, called Tacocat, and what's interesting about them is that they are a group of 19 entrepreneurial post-secondary graduates who are hoping that NIU! can help launch their career.
SD: What kinds of foods will they be serving?
RH: They will be serving Asian-inspired tacos, so Mexican tacos with Asian recipes that they grew up eating. You can check out what they will be serving at NIU! at www.facebook.com/thetacocat
SD: Where do you draw your inspiration from for the night market?
RH: I think NIU! wants to stay true to traditional night markets in Asia, by showcasing unique Asian dishes that most Chinese-Canadians grew up eating, while bringing in a Canadian/North American touch with the CCYAA Sports Zone and Outdoor Movie Screening. Attractions such as Paint-A-Thon appeals to the local and inner artists in and around the GTA. These different attractions help distinguish us from other night markets.
SD: You're including food trucks this year? what was the thought process behind this?
RH: Each year we try to bring in new types of food to NIU! and since the Food Truck Festival was such a huge hit we thought we should try to introduce them here to our patrons who lives in uptown area.
SD: What else is new this year?
RH: This year the CCYAA has partnered with the NBA Canada to bring NBA 3x to the CCYAA Sports Zone at our event for 3 days. With over 200 teams expected to compete, the NBA is also scheduled to bring special guests such as the Raptors Dance Pak, the Raptors Mascot, and even an NBA player to meet with fans and sign autographs. One unique aspect to the Markham location of the tour specifically is the one-time occurrence of a special "Chinese Community" division. In an effort to reach out to the Chinese community and introduce new Canadians to the sport of basketball, NBA 3x will have a special “CCYAA” division which will focus on providing players from the Chinese community the opportunity to compete amongst each other and experience the fun of NBA 3x.
SD: What are your top five tips for night market newbies?
RH: Wear closed toe shoes!! Avoid wearing heels or sandals, especially flip flops!
- If you're here for the food, come in the afternoon/early evening, there will be no line up. Come after 7pm if you're here to experience the atmosphere, but the line up for food can be pretty brutal. (Depending on the booth, some line usp can take more than an hour.)
- Try everything if you can We have many programs happening for all three days! (Example: Outdoor movie, NBA Jam, CCYAA Sport Zone, Paint-A-Thon http://www.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat!
-Avoid bringing pets or baby strollers at night.
SD: One of my favourite things about the night market is the diverse selection of snacks and street food. What are some of your personal favourites?
RH: My personal favourites changes every year, two years ago was stinky tofu and beef skewers , last year was shaved Taiwanese ice (I can't remember how many cups I bought within two days), and this year I'm looking forward to try out the Asian style poutines and tacos.
SD: Tell me a bit about the group behind the night market, I think its a fascinating organization.
RH: The group responsible for organizing NIU! is Power Unit Youth Organization, a non-profit organization that is entirely volunteer-based, that believes in youth development and empowerment through philanthropy. By organizing philanthropic projects, we give youths an opportunity to grow, self-explore and to be part of something bigger than themselves. Through our projects, Night It Up!, Paint-A-Thon and E3 Challenge, we are able to donate to a different beneficiary every year. This year our beneficiary is Make-A-Wish, and our proceeds are used to help a Make-A-Wish child, Justin, fulfill his wish of going to Disney World.
Night It up
Markham Civic Centre
Friday, July 13, 2012 from 7:00PM – 12:00AM
Saturday, July 14, 2012 from 12:00PM – 12:00AM
Sunday, July 15, 2012 from 12:00PM – 8:00PM
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.