Words and images by Helen Mas
The faint yet familiar, fresh-out-of-the-pot smell of coffee from downtown Jacksonville’s Maxwell House coffee plant slowly faded as the night grew older.
In its place now was even a headier mix of smells.
The aroma of freshly baked brownies and homemade chocolate chip cookies delicately lingered in the cool January air. Add to that the invigorating scent of cuisine from far-away lands that steamed from the Fusion Food Truck, a locally owned food truck business based on Indian, Thai and Mediterranean cooking.
It was enough to make anyone hungry for more.
It’s an ambiance that many Jacksonville locals are fond of whenever they visit downtown during an event night, and Jaxsons Night Market is no exception.
Held every third Thursday of the month from 5:30 to 9 p.m., rain or shine, Jaxsons Night Market is one of the newest monthly events to hit downtown Jacksonville. Presented by Community First Credit Union, the event launched in mid-April of 2014 as a “curated market,” adding yet another chance for excitement to the growing list of downtown happenings.
It’s hardly a secret whenever there’s an event going on in downtown Jacksonville, yet Jaxsons Night Market has maintained a relatively low profile.
Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people trek to the heart of downtown every month to experience one-of-a-kind nights, ranging from the popular Art Walk every first Wednesday of the month to the One Spark Festival every spring to the four-day Jacksonville Jazz Festival every May.
However, a more toned-down scene combined with an equally lively and eclectic crowd allows Jaxsons Night Market to make its signature mark on Jacksonville. It gives locals the opportunity to experience an exciting art- and music-filled evening downtown with plenty of both locally favorite and up-and-coming musicians as well as food and fashion vendors.
“I would definitely come back to the night market to hang out just because it is a fun and relaxed atmosphere with good street food [vendors],” said Amanda Luu, a recent Jaxsons Night Market attendee.
Visitors can expect a variety of food trucks, beer vendors, local farmers and local musicians and artists to be gathered around Hemming Park, the city’s oldest public square, and sprawled out throughout the colorful, tree-lined streets, bringing an enticing and thrilling nightlife to downtown Jacksonville.
Joy Crawford, the founder and owner of the 5 Points Candle Company, has been displaying and selling her products at Jaxsons Night Market since October 2014.
A young and eclectic Art Walk crowd pours out of the North Laura and West Monroe Street corner of Hemming Park
“It’s a nice area to have the market,” Crawford said. “We see a lot of families that come down there, we see a lot of professionals who are getting off work that come down there, [and we see] people who live downtown that come down there, so it’s a good mix of people.”
Warm, golden lights hung from the tree branches around the park like sparkling jewelry, giving the atmosphere around the first Jaxsons Night Market of the year a unique, mellow vibe — the perfect spot for a relaxing night out after an exhausting day at work or a grueling class at school.
Dozens of people huddled at each vendor area.
Some stood near the clothing vendors and jewelry designers, admiring bright-colored, handmade crotchet bathing suits and delicately crafted earrings. Others sat at the Hemming Café’s round tables under ruby umbrellas drinking craft beers from the Hemming Park Beer Garden and listening to the local musicians.
“I just like all the people who are out here, and there’s always great food to choose from which is really awesome,” said Jordyn Dines, a local vendor and owner of Gypsy Soul Trinkets and Trade. “[There’s] good beer too!”
If you haven’t been to Jaxsons Night Market, go. It’s an event that any Jaxson — a Jacksonville local, hence the name of the event — would quickly recognize as a hidden gem of downtown nightlife.