Madison Night Market

People crowd West Gilman Street for the second Madison Night Market on June 8.

A wildly popular event that drew thousands of people to Madison’s Downtown last summer is expanding.

Officials with the Central Business Improvement District have announced that the Madison Night Market, held three times in its inaugural 2017 series, will be expanded to four nights this spring and summer. They also announced that there will be more space for vendors on West Gilman Street and that some entertainment and activities are planned for both the top and bottom of State Street.

Tiffany Kenney, executive director of the BID, said the Night Markets this year will be held from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on May 10, June 14, Aug. 9 and Sept. 13 — all Thursdays.

The markets drew more than 5,000 people each in 2017, with an estimated 7,000 people attending the final market of the year in July. The markets featured 80 vendors with anywhere from 40 to 60 food, drink, art and retail vendors at any one market along a stretch of West Gilman Street between University Avenue and Lisa Link Peace Park on State Street.

This year’s markets will extend to Henry Street but there will be no market in July so as to not interfere with Maxwell Street Days, an event that draws thousands to the Downtown but also stretches the small business owners who need to staff the events.

“We feel really lucky to have such a successful event right off the bat,” Kenney said. “It’s a tribute to Madison’s culture and its creative class. The more we focus on that unique artisan the more success we can have.”

Artist at Madison Night Market

Madison artist Jason Kotecki signs one of his works for a customer at the June 8 Madison Night Market. 

Modeled after other markets around the country, including one in Milwaukee, the Madison Night Market was born out of a Downtown retail study to stimulate retail and bring more people into the shopping district. The plan worked so well that security for the second and third night markets were increased, street closure protocols were adjusted and organizers quickly began discussing expanding the markets.

Each Night Market costs the BID about $7,000 to put on. Vendor fees and sponsorships pay for about half, with the remainder coming out of a $50,000 Downtown programming fund from the city. About 25 percent of vendors are located in the BID, 15 percent offer farmers’ market-type and prepared foods like crackers and kettle corn, 35 percent are classified as arts and crafts, and 25 percent of the vendors are food carts.

Kenney wants to see more businesses from within the BID take part in the markets, which are designed to draw people to the city’s downtown so they can experience the businesses within the BID.

“This is a way we can showcase that,” Kenney said. “I want to keep working on that so the market spills to the boundaries of the district.”


Barry Adams covers regional and business news for the Wisconsin State Journal.