Oganizers with the Richmond Night Market are getting ready to kick off a new season with something very “old.” How about 200 million years old?
On May 13, opening night, the market debuts its theme for this year – Magical Dino Park – featuring a total of 18, life-sized, replica dinosaurs that are animated, roar and can even offer you a ride.
“I see you’ve seen our ‘toys,’” says Raymond Cheung, event organizer with the Richmond Night Market, when the News paid a visit on Wednesday afternoon. “They are pretty impressive.
“They move, they roar. Some of them can spit water out. They are very interactive. This will be the first time in B.C. that you will be able to see so many of this type of exhibit in one place,” Cheung said.
Cheung, who has run the night market for the past 15 years at various locations in Richmond, said the dinosaurs were designed and built specially for the market, which attracts an average of 10,000 visitors each night on Fridays and weekends from May until early October.
Asked how much was spent on getting a ferocious T-Rex, an assortment of raptors and more benign, yet massive herbivores to greet and entertain guests, Cheung quipped, “Too much!”
“Every year we try and come up with something different to keep things fresh for the people who come here. That’s why we went to the lengths of having these dinosaurs designed and made just for us,” he said. “We’re the biggest night market in the region and judging by our (attendance) numbers we’re big, rivaling the PNE.”
Part of the resurgence of the Richmond Night Market has been its move five years ago to the Duck Island area adjacent to the River Rock Casino Resort, where a cement plant once operated.
The 22-acre site has been turned into a small scale, seasonal, budget Disneyland/PNE with the addition this year of the dinosaurs and a small selection of rides, which are being offered for the first time.
One of the strengths owing to the market’s success has been the proximity to the Canada Line SkyTrain station.
“Each year we have been here the number of people using the Canada Line to get to the market has increased,” Cheung said. “On the average night, we get about 100 to 130 people get off each train every three minutes and come here. Do the math. That’s a lot of people.
“I don’t know of anywhere else in Richmond where you get that kind of support from public transit. That’s our advantage.”
Another is the adjacent casino, which provides a decent crossover of visitors.
“People who leave here when we close at 12 a.m., those are the ones who want to stay out and not go home. And where can they go. The casino is open 24 hours.”
Another draw is the food court with its 100 vendors offering about 500 items from around the globe.
“No one else can do this. We have so many food choices,” Cheung said, adding a huge investment in infrastructure to provide hot and cold running water and power to all of the food booths is the key.
“Most people who visit will go there. This year, we have a lot of Japanese and Korean foods.”
In total, the night market creates around 700 to 800 seasonal jobs, not including the 100 or so who manage the night market operations.
And an impressive return of vendors each year speaks to the market’s success.
“We get about 80 to 90 per cent of our vendors back each year,” he said, adding there is a waiting list for booths. “We are very careful not to repeat what the vendors offer. So, unless you have something that is very different, we can’t accept them.”
Even amid competition from six other night markets sprinkled elsewhere across the Lower Mainland, Cheung said his remains the biggest because of the amount of experience his operation has built up over the years.
“We know what people want and are looking for.”
As for what the future brings, Cheung said the lease on the property runs for another two years. But what then?
“Who knows? Six years ago ,if you told me there was a place this big in Richmond next to the Canada Line, I’d say you were kidding. It was hidden.
“I can foresee development of the site at some time. But we are focused on doing a job each year of making things better and better.”
The Richmond Night Market is located at 8351 River Road (at the corner of No. 3 Road and River Road) one block from the Bridgeport Canada Line station.
Gates are open from 7 p.m. – midnight.