The Madison Night Market returned Thursday to host dozens of small businesses and vendors and welcome hundreds of visitors along State Street and Gilman Street.
The 2023 Night Market, held monthly from May through October, is organized by Madison’s Central Business Improvement District and the City of Madison. Since its founding in 2017, the Night Market has showcased and supported local businesses and artists as well as the city’s creative culture.
Guests are free to walk up and down State Street during the event, visiting food carts and pop-up restaurants and shopping at artisan vendors. Musical entertainment can be frequently found, from buskers on street corners to scheduled performances held at the Peace Park Music Stage (452 State St.) and the Community Performance Stage held at the Forum (30 State St.), an event plaza near the top of State Street.
The Madison Night Market features a local artist’s work each year. The featured artist of 2023 is Xizhou Xie, an abstract and modern artist who has been a regular Night Market vendor for years.
The Night Market’s bustling atmosphere is one of the many draws for community engagement.
“I love this setting. I love how busy it is. Everyone's out having a good time,” said Julie Nord, owner of 608 Bakery and three-year vendor at the Night Market.
District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan, whose district includes much of UW-Madison's campus, shared similar sentiments.
“[When] I experienced the Night Market for the first time, it was my first real social leap into what Madison as a community is, what Madison is as a city outside of campus,” Govindarajan said. “I think it's a great opportunity — specifically for students — to come out, see what Madison has to offer and to learn more about the community and get outside of the campus bubble.”
Many local businesses flock to State Street each month to sell at the Night Market. It is a place for small businesses to network, expand their customer bases and connect with the Madison area community, vendors told The Daily Cardinal.
“We've been in Madison for three years. We wanted to really get out there and meet the community,” said local business owner BJ Winslow. Winslow and his wife, Eileen, run Dapper Cadaver, a local business specializing in making props and oddities for productions, attractions and medical training.
Ida Karongh, owner of Mai Lara’s Bouqcakes, said the market provides support for her business.
“This is one of the best places for exposure because you have all these people walking,” Karongh said. “I don’t know a better way to meet people than the Night Market.”
Sarah Weh of SJWHomemade, a sustainability-oriented business she runs with her mother, told the Cardinal she chose to partner with the market because of its support for smaller businesses.
“For me, this is how I run my business. I don’t have a storefront, I work strictly through markets like this one. If they didn’t exist, I pretty much wouldn’t have a job,” Weh said. “I appreciate that they have a platform for smaller micro-businesses.”
State Street businesses also benefit from the Night Markets, city officials previously told Madison Magazine. Many of the brick-and-mortar restaurants and stores have market-exclusive deals and extended hours.
The final Madison Night Market of the year is set for Oct. 19 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Night Market will take place in partnership with Science on the Square and feature special science-themed activities.