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Celebrating Growth and Diversity: Wichita’s Vibrant Asian Community

By Emily Younger Barnwell

Distinctive cultural celebrations are continuing to flourish in Wichita, fostering an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion. It’s something Wichita Asian Night Market President Taben Azad said is purposeful and meaningful.

“The Asian Night Market aims to unite and empower the community by serving as a platform for showcasing local talent including performers, chefs, entrepreneurs and fun for all ages,” said Azad.

The Wichita Asian Night Market, scheduled for May 18 at Riverfront Stadium, is inspired by the lively late-night markets in Asia where people come together to celebrate Asian cuisine, cultural performances and interactive art.

The inaugural night market in May 2022 drew a crowd of nearly 10,000 people to Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita. The 2023 market garnered more than 8,000 attendees at Riverfront Stadium. Organizers quickly realized the event was more than a community gathering, rather it has become a safe space to celebrate Wichita’s diverse voices while inspiring education and connection.

“Through participating in this event, we not only preserve our heritage but also contribute to the promotion of inclusivity, tolerance, and mutual respect in our communities and beyond. Events like the night market are a testament to the resilience, creativity, and collective spirit of Asian communities worldwide, and by supporting them, we affirm our commitment to embracing diversity and celebrating the beauty of our shared humanity,” he emphasized.

The Wichita Asian Association (WAA), established in 1981, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting understanding and appreciation of Asian cultures. It plays a pivotal role in organizing events like the annual Wichita Asian Festival and collaborating with organizations like the Wichita Asian Night Market to promote Asian culture.

“Without WAA there would not be as much visibility for a minority community that typically goes unnoticed,” said WAA Vice President Panya Amphone-Suh.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Wichita’s Asian population makes up nearly 5% of the city’s demographic and is on the rise.  

Amphone-Suh, 27, praises the region’s growth and development, adding he has witnessed significant progress in the city’s cultural arts and amenities.  

“I love that Wichita has so much to offer and continues to grow its offerings and opportunities for businesses, families, individuals and more,” Amphone-Suh said.

Speaking of opportunities – the Wichita Asian Association is working to increase its membership base and host more community events this year, while the Wichita Asian Night Market is expanding in 2024 to include extended hours, an Asian fashion show and a fireworks show.

Azad said with continued investment he and his team have aspirations to create an Asian District within Wichita and eventually a community center. He points to the transformative impact of the night market on Wichita’s quality of life and talent recruitment and retention efforts.  

“It certainly is a selling point to visitors and potential residents who see the support and excitement for an event like ours, especially when you see different communities come out and celebrate the event,” Azad shared. “I've heard several stories from our vendors on how the night market made a difference for their small business. Being able to support small business owners and even those who do this as a hobby is a small but meaningful success for the event.”

The 43rd Annual Wichita Asian Festival is scheduled for Oct. 12 at Century II. It will feature a pageant, multiple cultural stage performances, and an assortment of Asian cuisines and art.

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