Saturday, August 08, 2009

LakeFest Street Fair in Oakland, CA - August 1st 2009

More at | Follow me on Twitter! | Get my widget! | Visit YouTube | Visit


LakeFest is a street fair that was held last Saturday and Sunday August 1st and 2nd on Lakeshore Avenue between Lake Park and Mandana near the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. After a long absence, it's back for its second year and with great bands and vendors selling clothes and representing everything from the new Lake Chalet restaurant to "Friends of the Oakland Public Library."

I talked with a number of Oaklanders about the festival because there was a long period of time that, well, there was not an event of this kind at this location. That is until Helen Wyman stepped in.

Helen Wyman is an event producer currently best known for the first, successful Uptown street fair held June 18th of this year. She explained that this event has nothing to do with the version of year's past and is brand new. "'LakeFest' was a concept we came up with through my company Oakland Events. We decided that Lakeshore was a great spot because of the community and the neighborhood, location and the weather and so many people that can walk here. And they didn't have a festival so we wanted to bring the festival back here."

But what happened to the first version of what is now called "LakeFest"? For the answer to that question I turned to long-time Oaklander Pam Drake, who is Executive Director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District (LBID). "WE had put it on with an art organization that didn't work with the vendors and it ended up costing us a lot of money and didn't involve our stores as much as it should. So the businesses, we weren't really sure if we wanted to go on with it.

"So, we hadn't done anything in a while and we felt like even though we have the wonderful farmers market, that people wanted to see Lakeshore on the map again. So Helen Wyman, who's someone who I worked with her mom, came up and said 'We've done all these events and I'd really like to do an event for this district.'"

LakeFest was Wyman's first independent event so she wrote a proposal to the LBID's Drake and she liked and endorsed Wyman's idea. Last year was the first one; this is the second year in a row for Wyman's festival concept.

Personally, I love what she's done. It captures the feel and the sprit of Oakland without really any "trick" other than organizing businesses and entertainment and booths. But with that, I have to complement Oakland Events on taking steps to guard against overcrowding. Many street fairs in San Francisco have the booths so close to the side walk that its hard to walk back-and-forth because folks are pressed so close together; not so at LakeFest.

LakeFest also helped the businesses along Lakeshore, especially Easy Lounge, which was perpetually crowded with a great mix of people and Starbucks and Noah's Bagels, which benefited from being near the music stage at the Mandana Avenue end of the street fair. Combined with the Grand Lake Farmers Market, the whole neighborhood was just one big party.

So, congrats to Wyman and Oakland Events for a fun time. But I look forward to the day when both Grand Avenue and Lakeshore are both closed down for one big Grand Lake Festival.