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Celebrate Asian culture at Little Mekong Night Market

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Back for it’s 3rd year, The Little Mekong Night Market returns, and it’s bigger than ever, happening over two nights this weekend.

Started by the Asian Economic Development Association, who rebranded the area between Mackubin and Galtier streets along University Avenue as Little Mekong, St. Paul's Night Market is modeled after those in Southeast Asia, with food, entertainment, arts and culture galore.

According to Audrey Park, the group hopes to turn the five-block area into a destination.

“It contains a lot of Asian-owned businesses, as well as immigrant and refugee families,” she says. “AEDA wanted to highlight a place full of culture that many people don’t realize. We wanted to make sure that people don’t bypass it.”

Little Mekong offers new opportunities to vendors and artists.

“More than half of the vendors are people of color, and many are Asian-owned,” Park says.

Because vendor fees are low, upstarts can be part of the festival with minimal risk.

Of course, the highlight is the food. You can sample things like kimchi fries, frozen pops from FrioFrio, and Laos style tacos.

Does an ice cream donut sandwich sound delicious? Try one from Lilly Bean's Ice Desserts. There is merchandise too, plus a whole section of artists selling their wares.

There's also a gallery inside the Western U plaza featuring “MANIFEST: Refugee Roots,” an exhibition of refugee narratives, with work by artists from Asia and other parts of the world.

Ifrah Mansour, Koua Mai Yang, TouSue Vang, Sao Her and Yang Mee Moua Yang are among the featured. Cultural groups also provide information about their programs, and monks from the Gyuto Wheel of Dharma Monastery will have a sand art mandala installation.

Other highlights include a kid-friendly zone, free health care testing and educational activities, like learning to tie a Hmong head wrap with UrbanTurban. There are three different performing stages.

Little Mekong Night Market takes place from 5 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, and 5-10 p.m. Sunday. 379 University Ave. St. Paul.