Friday Night Munchies: Santa Ana’s emergent community night market

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Food, family and fun. Highlights from Santa Ana’s newest weekly event.

It can be said that there exists a certain charm inherent to the proposition of street food and public gatherings. Perhaps it is the environment in which the food is prepared; in otherwise unassuming parking lots and closed off roads which allow for the intermingling of scents, sounds and sights.

Perhaps it is the atmosphere of a lively bustling crowd that fuels the hunger that one experiences; tempting the otherwise cautious individual to attempt the challenge of a plethora of food truck offerings or a seemingly impossible carnival game.

Or perhaps it is something deeper, something that speaks more to the ambiance of festive events; a palpable ambiance that invokes feelings of belonging and amiability among people who are willing to explore what their community has to offer.

Whatever the reason may ultimately be, it stands as an reminder of how easily attainable a pleasant experience can be should you choose to seek one. The good news is that you won’t need to look very far to find great food, fantastic arts and crafts as well as family fun as Santa Ana’s Friday Night Munchies event is a short drive away.

Upon arriving at the event, two things become immediately obvious; there is an abundance of people in attendance and there is wide assortment of food choices and vendors eager to please. With so many options and choices available, I felt it best to consult with attendees Melissa Haro and Nidia Estrada.

“This is my sixth time attending the event, it’s almost like a ritual for me,” says Estrada “I work really hard, I’m a mom of 4 and I’m a single parent, so this is my me time. I take some time off and come with my best friend and come and eat.”

And rightfully so, as some of Orange County’s finest street food vendors are in attendance. Serving all manner of fried and grilled food. In every booth, the rhythmic sounds of cooking can be heard alongside the call of a flustered cashier trying to keep a steady pace.

“We’ve heard of people from way out of Santa Ana that are coming to the event, so it’s growing,” says Haro. “People as far out as Riverside and family friends from further away. Everybody here you can tell they’re just getting their businesses out there and I get to see the community come together which is really cool. We’re here to support each other.”

Classic Vato shirt and hat. (Christian Aguilar-Garcia/Lariat)

While for many, the variety of food available may be the main draw for an event of this nature, it should be noted that there is simultaneously no shortage of attractive merchandise available to the public. Entrepreneurs with all manner of clothing, jewelry and  handmade crafts are on display. Chances are that even the smallest of strolls through the bustling crowd will result in a purchase of some variety. In this environment, the spoils go to the vendor with the biggest, brightest and busiest stalls.

Huichol Necklaces (Christian Aguilar-Garcia/Lariat)

I spoke to several of the vendors at the event, many of which were native to Santa Ana and who in their own way, represented the entrepreneurial hustle that is indicative of the spirit of Santa Ana and surrounding cities. Several of these proud individuals who worked a full-time job but that still found the drive to go and pursue something that they were passionate about; were out in full force supporting each other and acting as representation for what makes local community markets so important in terms of how we choose to acknowledge our environments.

“The jewelry here is known as Huichol art, they’re made of Chakira beads. They’re made in different parts of Mexico and they’re handmade. We bring them here so that people can see them and see the art that is related to our culture,” said street vendor Carlos Sosa of Earth’s Four. “It actually is a wonderful thing, because people don’t see these things and it’s important so that people know about it.”

In can be easy to become lost in the environment of a community market, as these things tend to go there is always some form of activity; some form of interaction that draws the eye and beckons the muscles to move. In that moment, I found myself drawn to a larger crowd that had begun to encircle a live music booth where an individual had begun to address the crowd with the allure of redeeming a prize, should their ticket match the numbers that he would call out.

After the raffle concluded and the victors carried their prizes away, I was fortunate enough to find myself face to face with Jay Arias, one of the organizers of Friday Night Munchies.

“I came aboard November of last year as an organizer, we do 3-4 events a month and the Friday Night Munchies began when a few friends came together and decided to do something that they liked,” said Arias. “We cross our fingers for more growth and we hope to grow the event even bigger. So far it’s been great and we see new people every time.”

If you’re looking for a great event to visit with a variety of attractions, consider visiting the next Friday Night Munchies event.
Friday Night Munchies is held every Friday night at 420 W Central Ave in Santa Ana from 6pm-11pm.