Correction: Alex Siu was originally identified at Alex Alexander.
If all goes according to plan, Jonny Hwang, a 32-year-old business entrepreneur, could end up being responsible for helping bridge the gap between the Asian community and others in the San Gabriel Valley while also giving horse racing at Santa Anita Park a needed boost.
Hwang, who met with Arcadia Patch and other media outlets at a press conference at Santa Anita Wednesday, with hopes of making it a regular summertime attraction.
It was held twice this year in Pasadena, in April and again in July, and drew large crowds. The first one drew 20,000 people — far too many for the site in front of the Pasadena City Hall to handle. The second one was held in a six-block area and things went better.
“We think Santa Anita Park is the ideal place,” Hwang said. “It has the parking and space we need. I’d like to see it become a weekly event during the summer months.
“Our goal is make 626 Night Market synonymous with Asian Night Market, that everyone knows what you are talking about when you say 626 Night Market.”
This weekend’s event will run from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and the first 1,000 people to show up will get a $2 betting voucher, with one lucky person getting a $500 voucher.
Parking at Santa Anita will go from $4 a car to $7 a car at 4 p.m. Free admission to the track goes into effect at 3 p.m. So the best deal is arrive between 3 and 4, pay $4 to park, get into the track for free, watch the remaining races and enjoy the food, products and services, plus dancing and entertainment, at the 626 Night Market in the infield.
The infield can hold some 20,000 people at any one time. Hwang said he is hoping to attract as many as 50,000 over the two days. This marks the first time 626 Night Market has taken place over two days.
Some 150 vendors will be taking part.
Hwang, who lives with his wife Janet Lan in Alhambra, is a native of Taiwan. He came to the U.S. at the age of 4 and lived in Southern California and Kansas before attending USC. After college, he went back to Taiwan for four years.
“The night markets there are hugely popular,” he said. “When we came back here, I got to thinking there isn’t much for young people to do at night, and that a night market like the ones in Taiwan might be the answer.”
The first 626 Night Market was only promoted on social networks, and still 20,000 people showed up, jamming traffic and causing all kinds of problems. “But at least we knew how popular our event could be,” Hwang said.
In the beginning, there was just Hwang, his friend Brian Gi and his wife. Gi was put in charge of working with the vendors. Now the team also includes Alex Siu, a recent UCLA grad, and Aileen Xu, a recent USC grad, working on marketing.
It will take a full crew to set up and up tear down everything.
“I’m taking off my suit and putting on my sweats as soon as we are done here,” Hwang said. “It will be six long days of hard work, counting Monday, when we’ll tear everything down and clean up.”
Hwang and his staff have lined up a number of sponsors, including East West Bank, Fiat, State Farm, the Diamond Plaza and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
Gi estimates that about 5 percent of the crowds at the first two events were non-Asian. Hwang is hoping to make it a multi-cultural event.
He did have a warning though for non-Asians: The Stinky tofu lives up to its name. “It can smell pretty bad — you either love it or hate it,” Hwang said.
Hwang said he first contacted Pete Siberell, Santa Anita’s director of special events, about using the Arcadia track. He then worked John Niedzwiedz in marketing, CEO Mark Verge, Director of Publicity Mike Willman and others at the track.
But things would have never come together with approval from the Arcadia City Council, with John Wuo serving as the point man for the city.
“It’s a win, win, win, win.” Wuo said. "It’s a win for 626 Night Market, a win for Santa Anita Park, a win for the city of Arcadia and a win for the people who live in this region.”
Santa Anita’s Verge had another item for Arcadia Patch. He said that Santa Anita will host a special premiere of the new James Bond movie “Skyfall,” on Oct. 29, 12 days before it comes out on Nov. 9. The movie will be shown at the Santa Anita Mall theaters, with premiere parties at the racetrack.
Verge worked with his friend Gary Barber, CEO of MGM, in putting together the event.
Look for more details on Arcadiapatch.com.