Getting Into the Hester Street Fair Is A Little Like Getting Into College

Hester Street Fair

Last year's Hester Street Fair taught Suchin Pak a lesson that should come as no surprise to anyone who's attempted to navigate the crowds at the Brooklyn Flea or New Amsterdam Market. "We learned very quickly that food seemed to be not only a huge draw in general, but also that bloggers and writers are obsessed with food, particularly in the setting of a stall or stand," she says.

So Pak, who founded the market last year, decided to apply that knowledge to this summer's Hester Street Fair: When it returns this Saturday, it will be decidedly food-focused, with Sunday dedicated entirely to, as Pak says, "very unique food experiences and food events." Right now she's toying with a number of ideas -- special brunches where attendees can buy seats at a picnic table, food contests, classes, a night market.

And regardless of what those events entail, there will be plenty of vendors in attendance. It seems that the idea that everyone and their laid-off boyfriend wants to start a food business isn't a myth, at least judging by Pak's recent experience.

"I'm just so shocked at the amount of food that we're getting," she says. "I assumed that because there were so many other markets opening up there would be less to go around. But in fact, that's so not the case."

Last year, she received fewer than 30 applications for vendor spots over the course of the season. This year, "we haven't even opened the market and already have 100 applicants for seven spots throughout the season." And incidentally, "everyone wants to make baked goods."

Deciding who gets in requires a calculus more befitting a college admissions office. Although the addition of the food-only Sunday market has opened up more spots for rotating vendors (Pak notes that certain established vendors, such as Luke's Lobster, will have permanent spots at the market), they're chosen in part based on how their products will complement those of other vendors.

"We want to have a balance," Pak explains. "Small stuff versus bigger stuff. We don't want too much because they can cancel each other out. We'd rather have a select number of really awesome foods than a large number of OK, semi-uninteresting foods. We have to so carefully weigh everyone coming in. I think that's why food lovers and vendors gravitate towards the market -- it's like the food Olympics."

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