Behind the Scenes of the 5C APIDA Night Market: A Revived and Future Tradition


Alyssa Wend ’24

Excitement and music filled the air as hungry 5C students gathered on Bowling Green Lawn in anticipation of the spring 5C Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) night market on March 22. This is the third time that the event has been held since the return to campus post-pandemic.

Claremont Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA) has hosted the 5C APIDA night market yearly since at least 2015, but the event has grown significantly in recent years, both in size and frequency. The night market brings together 5C APIDA clubs and organizations (CLORGs) to showcase various Asian foods and cultures.

Although some of the history of the 5C night market was lost during the pandemic, the TASA executive board revived the event in the fall of 2022. Emma Tao ’22, Dahlia Wang ’24, and Jennifer Hu ’24 took the lead in these efforts.

“We brought [the night market] back pretty much only based on our past president, Emma Tao, who had experienced the night market before the pandemic,” Wang said. “She wasn’t on the board, she had only gone as a participant, so everything that we tried to build for the first one was based on what she was just saying.” This year’s TASA Co-Presidents Wang and Hu, as well as Vice President Niketa Kou PO ’25, were the driving force behind organizing this event.

The loss of generational knowledge surrounding the event in the wake of the pandemic gave TASA a chance to start fresh for Wang. “Because we’re kind of reviving the night market from nothing — no one who’s currently a student had experienced the night market — we’re pretty much establishing what it is now,” she said. “It’s been nice because we’ve had a lot of influence on how people perceive the night market.”

The return of the night market in the fall of 2022 was a huge success. Although TASA had only prepared for 100 students to attend, they had 300 attendees. Participation has only increased since then and the turnout demonstrated the student body’s efforts to build relations amongst the 5C APIDA community. This, alongside positive feedback from attendees, led to TASA’s efforts towards further night market expansion.

However, this ambition also demonstrated the difficulty of organizing a large collaborative event. “When we did it in fall 2022, we were just like, ‘It’d be so cute to have night market,’” Wang said. “We didn’t think, ‘Let’s make a collaborative community.’ Yes in theory, but in actuality, it’s pretty hard because you’re organizing multiple people from the boards of 10 different clubs.”

Each year TASA has borne most of the organizational responsibility as host of the event. These responsibilities have included communicating with participating CLORGs, requesting funding from external sources, managing budgets and reallocating funding, and handling day-of-event logistics.

In the fall of 2022, “[Organizing the night market] was a lot more disjointed,” Wang said. “We had one Zoom meeting, and then we organized everything through just an email thread. There was a lot less collaboration.”

Wang, Hu, and Kou first made internal changes to their logistical system to make the day-of-process run smoother. During night market in fall 2023, TASA implemented a new check-in system that allowed the organizers to keep track of who attended, reach out to potential new members, give out commemorative stickers designed by Wang, and more easily inform attendees of the participating CLORGs. As attendees checked in, they also received a stamp card, which included a list of the participating CLORGs, the foods being offered, and allergens for those with dietary restrictions.

Even with these changes, the level of responsibility for TASA’s team of three members actively working on the night market demonstrated a need for more collaboration. “When all of the tasks accumulate it’s so much work,” Kou said. “But if we just delegate greenwear, or a playlist to each club […] it feels like everyone’s working together.”

Other APIDA CLORGs faced similar scale issues, specifically regarding their budgets. “The first [night market] was smaller because some clubs just don’t have enough in their yearly budget to buy that much food,” Hu said. “So this year, we were applying for a lot of outside funding.”

To mitigate the monetary struggles of smaller APIDA CLORGs to ensure that everyone who wanted to could participate, TASA reallocated over half of the money they received from outside funding to individual CLORGs for the 2024 market. “We wanted to assist the smaller clubs who don’t have as much funding, which is super important to us because we also want them to participate but we don’t want them to feel like they can’t because of budgeting limitations,” Kou said.

While the night market has been viewed as a chance for the 5C APIDA community to come together, Hu expressed how this can be difficult in practice. From feedback forms that participants filled out, “From feedback forms that participants filled out, they said that they loved seeing all the APIDA clubs come together in community, which is a great sentiment, but this spring was probably one of the first times it felt true from the host’s perspective,” Hu said.

The participating clubs for the spring included the Claremont Cantonese Club (Canto Club), Claremont Buddhism and Tea Circle (Tea Circle), Southwest Asian North African Alliance (SWANA), Thai Students Association of the 5Cs (THSA), Claremont South Asian Student Association (SASA), Claremont Colleges Shanghai Culture Club (SHCC), Japanese Student Organization of the Claremont Colleges (JSOCC), and 5C Circus Club.

Although many clubs were unable to participate this spring, Wang expressed that there was an overall stronger sense of collaboration for this night market. “It was very nice this semester, even though we had less participants, to see that people were really willing to help and willing to contribute with the communal tasks and wanting to make it not just TASA a host but genuinely an APIDA night market,” she said.

THSA returned to the night market this spring, serving a Thai custard called sangkhaya made by club members. For THSA Co-President Chadinthon “Minnie” Kittivorawong HMC ’24, the night market was a chance to both introduce the broader 5C APIDA to the Thai dessert and encourage club participation through an event to make the sangkhaya. “I feel like there’s some people who are afraid to try [the dessert], but overall, I think it was really fun.” Kittivorawong said.

Kittivorawong also noted that these night markets help connect the international APIDA community. “Most of the Thai students here are international students, so night market is a big thing for us,” she said. “I think street food, being able to walk out of the school and then there’s something we can just go and eat […] is something that the United States doesn’t really have, especially around here. So night market is definitely something that makes us feel like we’re going back to our Thai culture a little bit.”

This spring’s night market also saw new club participation, such as SWANA and Circus Club. Circus Club performed during the second half of the night market, executing self-choreographed circus skills such as silks, lyra, unicycling, tumbling, and juggling.

Although this was the Circus Club’s first time performing at the night market, Circus Club President Rina Nagashima ’24 attended last semester’s event. “That was one of my favorite events of last semester,” she said. “I love trying the different foods from the different clubs. I was really excited by the opportunity for our club to help contribute to this event that I think is really important for the 5C community.”

Nagashima noted the thoughtfulness that went into their artistic choices of what circus skills to highlight and the kind of music they used. “Because this was the APIDA night market, we chose music all by APIDA artists,” Nagashima said.

The night market was the Circus Club’s first time choosing their own performance music. Featured musicians included Joji, Mitski, Kolohe Kai, X Japan, New Jeans, wave to earth, Anderson .Paak, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, and Joe Hisaishi.

“It was honestly my favorite performance that I’ve done at the colleges,” Nagashima said. “Probably a lot of it was due to the fact that this is an event that I think is important to the community, we were able to choose our music, we had a supportive audience, all those things coming together just made it my favorite performance at the Claremont Colleges.”

The night market has also been a space to bring together the larger 5C community, specifically through mutual aid efforts. The night market has collaborated with Frid-Aid since the fall of 2022, previously in the form of QR codes around the event for participants to donate to mutual aid. Although Wang stated that a large part of the appeal was that it was a free event for students to try new foods, this spring they suggested a $2 or pay-what-you-can entry fee.

In total, $1024 were collected for Frid-Aid who is currently working to redistributing these funds to individuals and families fleeing Gaza. “[The amount raised] means that everyone donated more than they needed to, and that’s a really small cost, $2 or $3 per person […] I’m excited to see how people continue to use the event for greater good,” Wang said.

Kou, who will be President of TASA next year when Wang and Hu graduate, is hopeful of collaboration with other CLORGs increasing in the future. “Since most people on the board right now will continue to be on the board, for the future for other clubs, it’ll probably be easier to collaborate and have people put in more effort to work together,” Kou said. “We would be able to provide so much more to the community.”

Wang, Hu, and Kou have even more ideas to continue expanding the event, such as including more desserts, drinks, and carnival games like Taiwanese night markets. However, their biggest hope is for the night market to establish itself as a 5C tradition. “One of our hopes is that the 5C APIDA night market is like something that you think of as something that happens during the semester … we want it to establish itself as an event that people know about and look forward to,” Hu said.

Although Wang and Hu are graduating this semester, they share the sentiment that the night market will continue to thrive when they are gone. “It has been really fulfilling reviving and reestablishing the event throughout our past couple years,” Hu said.“We are excited to see how this event will continue to grow after our graduation but are sad to see it go.”

To stay updated on future night markets, follow @claremont.tasa on Instagram!

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Hu ’24

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