OAKLAND — Festival spirit was flooding the grounds around Williams Elementary School Saturday as the second day of OakFest drew hundreds of people to an open air market featuring local crafters, food vendors and music all to celebrate what Oakland has to offer.

“What you see around here is pretty much Oakland. A lot of the vendors are from Oakland, and (the market) gives a place for our people to come and enjoy what the town is all about,” said Gary Bowman, Oakland town manager.

The open air market ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and had something for everyone, including arts, food, music and games, at the second annual OakFest, a festival that Bowman had set out to establish when he became town manager two years ago.

Children flocked to an array of offerings including moon bounces, farm animals, face painting and even the opportunity to check out the inside of an Oakland Fire Department ladder truck.

On Friday night, a parade and street dance kicked off the weekend’s festivities. The parade drew “thousands” according to Bowman, with onlookers lining up three and four people deep all along the three-mile parade route.

With OakFest in its second year, the festivities, especially the open air market, have grown substantially. Last year the market featured 63 vendors, according to Bowman. This year’s market featured more than 100 vendors from Oakland and the central Maine area.

“We’re trying to improve the quality of life here in Oakland, and what better way to do that than to celebrate what Oakland has to offer?” Bowman said.

Bowman said the whole idea behind starting OakFest was driven by the desire to improve the quality of life within the community and highlight the things that Oakland has to offer that residents might not know exists.

Local artists and crafters filled the market, offering a plethora of handmade products including jewelry, soap, pottery, walking sticks, farm-fresh produce, jams and canned goods.

Oakland resident Gail Lewis, of Brown Dog Baskets, took up basket-weaving as a hobby 10 years ago, but after she retired in December, she devoted more of her time to making and selling a variety of baskets. Having only been to one other craft fair to sell her handmade baskets, she was impressed with the turnout at Saturday’s market.

“This is my first year, but I have been very pleased with it. I’ve had a lot of people come through. I think they’re intrigued that these are actually handwoven right from scratch,” Lewis said. “It also gives you the opportunity to see other crafters. It’s been wonderful.”

Lewis said many people were surprised to find out that she makes her baskets from scratch. To make a basket, she starts with dry, uncolored reeds that she soaks to weave into a variety of basket patterns. She then dyes the baskets and applies a protective varnish.

There were also several tents at the festival offering educational experiences, such as the Friends of Messalonskee Lake, who were building a loon nest that is going to be placed on the lake in the spring.

Annie Swenson, 17, of Oakland, and Jill Twist, 19, of Belgrade, both Friends of Messalonskee Lake members, were staffing the loon nest construction, which featured straw and peat moss sitting atop a wooden base. The nest was then covered in burlap with the intent to protect the loons from prey while they were nesting.

The women said OakFest has been a good opportunity to get the word out about their organization, and the interactive loon nest activity has garnered interest from people of all ages.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, what’s that?'” Twist said. “Throughout the day we’ve had little kids come and help us with the nest.”

Musical performances from the local band The Values kicked off Saturday’s festivities. The Scott Davis Band, of Portland, played until 5 p.m., closing out the market. At 7 p.m., another area band, The Boneheads took the stage, with a special performance by Pam Tyler, of Oakland, who owns Riverside Restaurant.

OakFest continues on Sunday with a “Peddle, Pedal, Pound the Pavement” triathlon at 9 a.m..

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

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Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate