Helen Wyman is well entrenched in Oakland's Lakeshore neighborhood, having grown up there, attended high school at Bishop O'Dowd, and become the area's consummate booster and events promoter. "It's compact, it's cute, so many people go there on the weekends," she said. At 32 years old, Wyman is a striver with a lofty CV: She quarterbacked the Jazz and Wine Festival in Montclair, Thursday Night Live events in Old Oakland, Oktoberfest in the Dimond District, and the Laurel World Music Music Festival, among other things. Wyman now works full time managing the community benefit districts in downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt/Uptown. ("Community benefit districts" are areas where property owners pay into a fund for neighborhood embellishments — everything from beautification to security.) Thus, she's currently overseeing one of the most exciting parts of Oakland.
Lakeshore was always a relatively prosperous neighborhood, Wyman explained, noting the chichi boutiques, restaurants, bakeries, small grocers, and hilly residential areas. It's flanked by Glenview and China Hill, alongside a checkerboard of apartment buildings and small homes. To the west lies downtown Oakland; to the south lies a saltwater lake with paddleboats, picnickers, and Children's Fairyland. While not quite recession-proof, it's certainly enjoyed resurgence in the past five years, said Wyman, especially with the launching of a weekend farmers' market that draws people from all over town.
Thus, Wyman created Lakefest, a weekend-long street fair that highlights the commercial area on Lakeshore Avenue. Using her private company, Oakland Events, as a production arm, Wyman blocks off the strip for two days, sets up a huge stage, and has all the merchants hold a sidewalk sale. She threw the first Lakefest last year and says it was a huge success. The streets were filled with artisan vendors, restaurateurs, wine tasting tents, children's activities, and a green-living expo. Not to mention Wyman had booked a variety of local bands, capping off with hip-hop group Zion-I. This year's format is roughly the same, she said, but for the addition of a skateboard concourse at Splash Pad Park, live music by Youth Movement Records, and young performers from Roots & Branches Sound System Volume 3. Called "Hood Games by tha Lake" this Sunday-only event will mollify all the teens who can't drink yet and don't have money to spend. Wyman said she partnered with Hood Games founder K-Dub to bring a similar element to the "Uptown Unveiled" street party in June, and it worked out well. This year's music lineup also looks promising, with reggae artist Rankin Skroo, hip-hop by Hieroglyphics and the Kev Choice Ensemble, Senegalese world-beat performer Youssoupha Sidibe, and King Cab doing alt-country, to name a few. On Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 1 & 2. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., free. OaklandLakeFest.com
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