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