Gwenies Pastries. Photo by Corey Jennings.

To cap off last summer, a group of Baltimoreans brought new life to downtown’s Westside for a day, drawing thousands to a sprawling pop-up night market in the city’s former Chinatown.

“Not knowing what the reception would be, and then really being wowed by the number of people who came out, really just confirmed the hunch that there is an appetite and a desire for representation,” said Stephanie Hsu, one of the organizers from the Chinatown Collective.

So, after a successful first run–plus a year of other events piggybacking off of it, like the Asia North Festival and pop-ups at Center Stage and elsewhere–the collective is bringing it back. The group has lined up performers, tons of food, vendors and artist stands for a night market from 3 to 11 p.m. on Sept. 21. It’ll coincide with the Lunar Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated widely across China and Southeast Asia.

The footprint for this version is larger, stretching two-and-a-half blocks from the 200 block of Park Avenue to Center Plaza at 100 N. Charles St. And while it’ll again host dozens of artists and restaurant vendors, it also promises more live entertainment.

Japanese Taiko drummers, led by Mark Rooney, will kick things off, and Filipina spoken word and hip-hop artist Ruby Ibarra will be the headliner. Also in the lineup: traditional Kung Fu and lion dance demonstrations, a DJ set dubbed Bollymore inspired by “sounds and stories” of South Asia, street performances and a roving concert piano truck made from a converted moving van.

Center Plaza will host programming for kids, including an interactive Polynesian dance troupe, readings with Asian-American and Pacific Islander children’s authors, DIY calligraphy demos and more.

For food, there’s an emphasis on a variety of tastes, including Fells Point favorite Ekiben (a release calls out to bao buns with Taiwanese curry-fried chicken), Hawaiian spam from traveling rice ball specialists Lei Musubi, Indian street fare from The Verandah, dressed-down offerings from James Beard Award-winning D.C. chefs Erik Bruner-Yang and Kevin Tien, and desserts like ube soft serve and melon bingsoo from Bmore Mochichi.

Phil Han, owner of Dooby’s, Sugarvale, Noona’s and other establishments, will be there serving drinks, including a beer from Key Brewing made just for the night market.

Also new this year is a premium option catering to foodies called The Joy Luck Club (a nod to the 1989 novel and 1993 movie about four Chinese-American immigrant families in San Francisco). Those who pay ($66/person or $120/couple until Sept. 7; $88/160 thereafter) can try specialties from Sri Lanka, Laos, the Philippines and China, drinks from a sake and natural wine bar curated by local bar entrepreneur Lane Harlan (Clavel, W.C. Harlan, others), and enjoy games of mah-jong and a drag performance from Kamani Sutra.

“We wanted to make the Joy Luck Club experience something that you really wouldn’t be able to find somewhere else in Baltimore, and make it one that is inclusive of a wide swath of Asian and Pacific Islander groups,” Hsu explained. (She noted the famous club that inspired it was traditionally Chinese, but said this version at the market will be “a more modern representation of who we’ve evolved into today.”)

Other activities will include nine-man volleyball (considered a U.S. Chinatown tradition), an artists’ market and a community arts tent, curated by Taiwanese MICA grad student Julia Hsiao Chu Hsia, where guests can hear recordings of local Baltimore of Asian heritage reflecting on the idea of a hometown.

Hsu said the collective looks forward to “expanding even more on what we were able to bring last year.”

“One year is great, and of course that’s really fun and exciting, but I think the staying power comes with doing it again,” she said, “and just continuing to create a more consistent platform for Asian-American artists and restaurants–to know that they have that space held for them here.”

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...