June 14, 2017, I attended my first NEWaukee Night Market. Not only did I attend it but, as one of their newest employees, I also got to help set it up. With a week of uncertainty within the office due to unpredictable weather, when showtime came, the Night Market soared even with its obstacles. The evening was vibrant, exciting, and brought together people from every corner of Milwaukee. Especially with the great performances and vendors, it was hard for me to believe that this was the city I had grown up in.
Set up for the NEWaukee Night Market started around 11am. From that time until 5pm when the market officially started, there was plenty to do. The day kept me busy with blocking streets with cars actively honking at you, spray painting giant checker and chess boards, and trying to stay hydrated. My favorite task that I was personally assigned to was spraying NKE stencils all over between the two blocks where the Night Market is set up. Although the work was semi-tedious and my entire body somehow became green with no green chalk spray, I knew I was adding to the visual experience of the market. They were almost like easter eggs you would find if you just so happened to look down.
We got through set up with drizzles of light rain but nothing threatening as the weather forecast apps predicted. Conveniently, right at 5pm we started questioning if we were hearing thunder or not. The rain and the winds came immediately after and that answered our question. Despite that, there were still people walking around visiting vendors umbrella or not. The resilience of those who came out to the Night Market during that time amazed me as I personally would have gone home if I had the option.
But, in about an hour the clouds opened and beamed onto our little corner in front of Grand Avenue Mall. We had our off and on wind problems but that was the least of our worries. The thousands of people milling around and making use of the space that NKE created for them was incredible to me. There were people from every walk of life and an innumerable amount of dogs. Strangers were dancing together and having intense chess games and forming relationships due to the accepting environment around them. Even I got roped into a couple dances and tried to keep up with the new moves. It was all in good nature and you could feel the positive vibes emitting from the space.
Some of my favorite memories include watching a young boy dance all evening with a TrueSkool performer despite him not being apart of the group and seeing so many people out on the dance floor enjoying themselves by the end of the night. In addition, the Milwaukee Flyers were incredible doing all types of gymnastics and jump rope tricks that I could only dream of doing. I can barely double dutch let alone jump rope with human bodies as the rope or soar over 6ft men. And then, right next to the NEWaukee booth was The Juice Kitchen who produced so many drinks out of pineapples that I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a new Instagram trend.
In the end, I felt that our Night Market kick off to the summer was more than successful. With the help of all of our vendors, sponsors, and attendees, we were able to create a fun and safe atmosphere in downtown Milwaukee that’s memorable. I think that attendees will remember more than the David Gruber bags or free Summerfest tickets. They’ll remember the experiences and connections that they made at the NEWaukee Market. And that’s what it’s there for.