Madison Night Market

People crowd West Gilman Street for the Madison Night Market in June 2017. The event was an instant success for the Central Business Improvement District, which expanded the market to four nights in 2018 from three nights in 2017.

Madison’s Downtown will likely be a busy place on Thursday night.

The Madison Reunion will be concluding its first day with music on the Memorial Union Terrace while on the shore of Lake Monona, a Beatles tribute band will play the rooftop of Monona Terrace.

In between the two venues, at West Gilman and State streets, more than 6,000 people are expected for the second of four Madison Night Markets this year. The event will feature music and 128 vendors selling food, artwork and other goods.

And thanks to 12 new pedestrian counters along State Street, city officials will soon have some hard data to help them determine the impact of special events like the Night Market. The counters, similar to those used on bike paths in the city, were installed in April for $88,000 and join two others that have been at the top of State Street for years.

“We’re excited about that,” said Tiffany Kenney, executive director of the Central Business Improvement District, organizer of the Night Market. “It’s fascinating to see where people are entering the street.”

The Night Market was an instant success in 2017 in its inaugural year, with an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people attending each of the three events. Based on that success, the market was expanded to four dates this year, which included a market on May 10. The pedestrian counters in the 400 block of State Street for that event reflected the impact of the Night Market, as 10,836 pedestrians were counted through the evening in front of the visitors center next to Lisa Link Peace Park.

On May 3, the previous Thursday, 4,249 people were counted, and on Thursday, May 17, the counters registered 6,333 pedestrians.

“That was the exciting part, to see people coming Downtown,” Kenney said. “We’re really able to see the impact the market is having.”

The focal point of the market is in a two-block stretch of Gilman Street where it intersects State Street and where 90 vendors will set up shop for the night from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. At the Night Market in May, eight vendors were also set up at the top of State Street, while 15 were set up at the bottom of State Street on State Street Mall. But because of the Madison Reunion, there will be no vendors at the top of State Street for this Thursday’s market. But there will be 38 vendors on State Street Mall, which will include a tie-dye T-shirt station.

In addition, about 20 businesses have pledged to keep their shops open during the market and offer specials.

“We’re just trying to experiment with the spaces. We want to make sure they’re good for the vendors and the attendees,” Kenney said. “I want to make sure these businesses Downtown are benefiting.”

There will be no Night Market in July, because of Maxwell Street Days, scheduled for July 20-22, but the Night Market will return on Aug. 9 and Sept. 13.

Send retail-related tips and story ideas to or call Barry Adams at 608-252-6148.



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