Wayne Cowing remembers when he used to come to Oakland as a little boy.

His mother was a nurse, so he would stay with his grandparents, who lived in Oakland.

He remembers the parades, the downtown and the community feel it had. That seemed to go by the wayside over time, he said outside his store on Main Street, Fyreflye Creations, on Thursday.

The Downtown Business Committee, formed in March, is hoping to change that.

The committee is helping the community “rediscover what was already here,” Cowing said.

One of the efforts is a Best Curb Appeal contest for downtown businesses in honor of the town’s annual celebration, OakFest, another effort to revitalize the town that is in its second year.

The flower committee is going to judge the businesses during the day on July 22, and the first-, second- and third-prize winners will be announced that night at the street dance. Winners will receive plaques and bragging rights from the committee.

Six businesses are competing in this contest: Couture Styles, Fyreflye Creations, Michael’s Short Cuts, Century Pools, Mac’s Citgo and Camden Bank.

All have decorated the front of their businesses. Couture Styles has stone tiles in a diamond pattern with white stone between leading out from its storefront, mimicking the diamond-patterned floor inside. Two white trellises climb up to the awning, framing a small gray patio set. Above the table hangs a chandelier holding potted plants instead of lightbulbs. Two planters with thin bushes that spiral upward stand in front of the trellises.

Michael’s Short Cuts has a park bench and matching window planters outside the store, along with two larger planters. Colored glass bottles hang from a white tree branch in the window.

Fyreflye Creations has planters and flowers galore. Regular brown planters are strung together to make little “planter people” figures in front of the store, too.

Cowing, who lives in Mercer but still has relatives in Oakland, again feels the way he did when he was a child.

“It slows everyone down a little bit,” he said, adding that people notice the decorations and stop to look at the shops.

Town Manager Gary Bowman is optimistic about the revitalization of Oakland’s downtown. The downtown business committee held a contest for the holidays and is thinking about doing another for Halloween.

“You can base the health of a community on the amount of people who come together to volunteer to make things happen,” he said.

Michael Weymouth, who owns the barber shop Michael’s Short Cuts and won second place at the last contest, said he thinks a lot of the credit should go to the flower committee as well as Bowman.

“They were a catalyst for this,” he said, electric razor buzzing away at a customer’s hair on Thursday.

“Gary has done a real good job to encourage the troops, so to speak,” Weymouth said.

The downtown’s improvement and the committee’s contest have helped his business, he said.

Maila Couture, who’s co-chairwoman of the downtown business committee, said the committee is focusing on smaller projects to get a little buzz about downtown going.

“We’re hoping it’s going to become a place where businesses will want to have their business,” she said Thursday. “We want to create a friendly, competitive environment to get the community more excited about living in the downtown area.”

The competition also has created a friendlier environment for business owners. Now they joke about each other’s storefronts when they pass by instead of just saying hello.

Couture is hoping that contests and improving storefronts will help create more of a tight-knit, small-town feel. The committee’s next step is to try to branch out and include more businesses on the outskirts of downtown in the contests.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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