The organizers of last summer’s Asia Collective Night Market in Howard County, which made headlines in August as a disastrous event, are working with Waterfront Partnership to host a two-day festival at Baltimore’s waterfront this weekend to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year.
The new event, dubbed the Lunar Night Cultural Festival, will take place Saturday and Sunday at West Shore Park and the Baltimore Visitor Center at the Inner Harbor. It will feature Asian art, food and performances to celebrate the first day of the lunar calendar — a widely observed holiday in some Asian countries.
“I feel really confident we can put together an incredible two-day event,” said Melody Thomas, events manager at Waterfront Partnership, adding that the goal is to bring an annual Lunar festival to Baltimore.
Yumin Gao, co-founder of F2 Entertainment, which organized the Howard County night market, said the group is hoping to rectify their mistakes and prove they’re capable event planners.
“There were missteps and misjudgments from our August event, but we’re learning, and we want to look at it seriously, and we want to be responsible, be accountable, and do what we can and improve what we didn’t do right and move forward with it,” Gao said.
The August festival at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship was criticized by some attendees who were stuck in gridlocked traffic and waiting in hourslong lines. Some frustrated ticket holders gave up and left.
While 25,000 people were permitted, far more people attended who were not ticketed, Howard County Police said about the Aug. 20 event. The group also failed to heed the department’s recommendations to address ballooning crowd sizes and a breakdown of parking logistics.
There was mass confusion and attendees took to social media to lambaste F2 Entertainment, which eventually prompted organizers to issue an apology and refunds or credits to those who sought one.
“Looking back, site selection” was one of the errors, Gao said. Cars for example had only lane to enter the fairgrounds and grass parking was a problem, he said.
“This time we’re doing it at an urban location, where public transportation and multiple parking locations are available,” he said.
Waterfront Partnership will oversee operational logistics including security and waste management while F2 Entertainment handles vendors and performers. There will be more volunteers on hand and mobile and kiosk ordering will be offered, Gao said.
Waterfront Partnership officials had reached out to F2 entertainment a few weeks before the night market festival last year.
“We had already been in communication with F2 about potentially putting on this Lunar New Year event before their event happened in Howard County,” Thomas said. “When that event happened, we had open and honest conversations together” to troubleshoot ahead of time coming into the event at the waterfront, she said.
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“Even though there were some hiccups with that event at Howard County, we really saw community leaders who just needed more support,” she said.
The Baltimore event runs from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at 401 Light St. The festival will feature over 40 traditional artists, craftsmen and performers altogether, plus more than 20 food vendors locally and from the East Coast.
Access is free to food and shopping vendors. Tickets are required for “cultural zones” that will feature live performances including dragon dances. Ticket prices in advance range from $10 to $30 for varying entry times. Children under age 12 are free.
Roughly over 2,000 tickets have been sold for the “cultural zones,” said Gao, noting that actual attendance is predicted to be higher.
Arrow Parking garage is offering $5 parking and several adjacent parking garages are available downtown.
Gao said the scale of the Lunar Festival is smaller compared with the Howard County event, but there’s more content, Gao said.
“If we just have 3,000 people, I’m happy with that,” he said. “We want to make sure this event goes well. We’re having a second chance and that’s probably our last chance, so we need to deliver.”