NYC International Food Festival Returns

By Aya Diab

New York City’s Ninth Avenue International Annual Food Festival is a New York tradition dating back to 1973. It was founded to unite New Yorkers through food, as well as help small New York business owners generate income. The event spans from 42 Street to 57 Street from 10 am-6 pm on May 14 and 15.

While the food festival is a joyous occasion, things haven’t been easy for many of the small vendors participating in the festival due to the pandemic beginning in March 2020.

In 2020 the festival wasn’t held for the first since its establishment in the ’70s but was able to start up again in late 2021, yet things weren’t the same according to a vendor who worked with the lemonade business stationed there. As of 2022, this is their sixth year of participating in the food festival, where they sell pink and regular lemonade as well as water for two dollars apiece. She states that the pandemic made things harder than before. “We used to make great money here,” she said referring to the festival pre-pandemic, but after the pandemic came, their sales were brought down “a lot.” Then once the festival came back “things have been okay” but there was still a big difference between the money they make now from the money before the pandemic. This caused the business to increase their prices to a dollar more, “But a dollar more is still expensive for people nowadays,” the woman added concluding that things just haven’t been the same since the pandemic.

Despite this event being known as a food festival, booths sold carpets, pottery, painting and much more, all showcasing different cultures from all over the world. Lucio, a young man from Honduras, owns a company called Serendipity. Serendipity is a small co-owned business that sells kitchen accessories, such as aprons, towels, gloves, and pottery. The pottery comes from women from different indigenous tribes in Honduras. Lucio’s business is only about six months old, and this year is his first time participating in the festival, “The pandemic hasn’t affected our business, but it was hard to get things delivered,” he said.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, in 2021 38.8% of U.S. small businesses reported domestic supplier delays, and 51.4% of accommodation and food service businesses reported domestic supplier disruptions. Uncle Jimmy’s Cheesecakes is also having a similar problem to Serendipity. Uncle Jimmy’s Cheesecakes is a small business that started in 2010 and 2022 is its seventh year participating in the international food festival. They had a small booth decorated with an orange banner and table cloth, with a glass case on their table filled with a variety of cheesy desserts. When asked if the pandemic has affected their business in any way the owner replied, “no, but what’s going on is that we can’t get any supplies. People are buying and eating, but we don’t have any supplies.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that its also been hard for small businesses to find alternative domestic suppliers, specifically 18.9% of owners reported difficulty. Meaning that small businesses also have a hard time finding backup suppliers. But not all is hope lost, despite trouble getting supplies. The owner of Uncle Jimmy’s Cheesecakes said he thought overall “things are getting better.”

A group of people gathered to purchase either lemonade or water from one of the lemonade stands present at the festival.

Uncle Jimmy’s Cheesecakes sells not only cheesecake but a variety of desserts and coffee. It showcased its Instagram and Facebook in the booth.

The co-owner of Serendipity, Lucio works at his booth that sells kitchen supplies, aprons, and in particular pottery made from women from the indigenous tribes of Honduras.

At 57th Street there was live music performed by these men who worked at Columbus Hardware store, which is the store right behind them.

A balloon water race game that anyone could pay to participate in is located at 57th Street.

Punto Boricua one of the large booths that were present and sells traditional Puerto Rican dishes.

At 57th Street there were bouncy castles mainly for little kids to enjoy during the festival. This one is Disney’s Frozen.

One of the many carpet booths that took part in the festival, with the owner sitting inside.

One of the employees from the Twisted Potato truck out to check on the long line of people waiting to order.

Kausa is a Peruvian restaurant and bar featuring a booth outside the restaurant.

At the tail end of the festival on 57th Street, there was a section dedicated to kids and families, with bouncy castles and carnival games, as well as live music.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *