Oakland’s town manager announced during a council meeting Thursday that the annual music and arts festival Oakfest would be canceled this year. He cited a shortage of vendors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“By this point in time we (should) already have at least 60 vendors who have signed up,” Town Manager Gary Bowman said Friday, recounting previous years. “So far this year we’ve had 10, and then it just stopped.”

Silverston Sporting Ranch BBQ Bar and its owner, Denise Murchison, were among the more than 70 vendors participating in the July 2019 Oakfest celebration. The town announced Thursday that it will cancel this summer’s event due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Oakfest

Vendors at the three-day festival, which was scheduled for the weekend of July 24, typically include food trucks, local artists, children’s activities and a classic car show.

“So the vendors aren’t coming and our concern is that it still costs a lot of money to put an event on like that,” Bowman said. “And without the revenue coming in to offset it, it will be hard to keep it going. Basically, Oakland is just taking a pause.”

Oakfest would have celebrated its sixth year this summer.

Last year’s festival included a Kids Fun Run; the Oakfest Paddle, Pedal & Pound Triathlon; a 75-booth open air market; a petting zoo; classic cruise car show; educational booths and musical performances.

“This is some tough times, budgets are tough right now,” Bowman said. “We’re going to get through it though.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Bowman also announced a plan to reopen the town office on Monday, May 18.

“After speaking with our (coronavirus) task force, we recommend to open up the town office on the 18th,” Bowman told the council. 

Oakland officially closed its town office, fire station, library and town garage to the public on March 19 due to the increasing spread of the coronavirus.

Bowman said that the town will now require face coverings to be worn by all visitors to the town office in an effort to abide by the recommendation set by the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Mills.

Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman, pictured here at his desk at the town office on Nov. 15, 2017, has formed a committee in Oakland to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus. On Thursday, Bowman announced plans to cancel Oakfest this summer and to open the town office beginning May 18.  Morning Sentinel file photo

“It’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but once people get used to it, I think it’ll be good,” Bowman said.

Any residents with health conditions that prevent them from being able to wear a face mask are encouraged to call the town office to make alternative arrangements.

“We’ve been planning for this since we closed,” Bowman said. “There will be no more than two people allowed in the lobby at once, and we’re going to maintain the 6 foot social distancing guideline.”

The council also discussed the upcoming annual Town Meeting.

“At this point in time I don’t want to change the date, which is June 9,” Bowman said. “As it stands the guidelines are supposed to loosen by then. We can put the chairs 6 feet apart. If there’s more people, we can put some in a separate room and Zoom them into the meeting.” Zoom is an online meeting platform. 

This year’s Town Meeting was supposed to be held in the town’s brand new fire station, but at Thursday’s meeting the council discussed keeping the location at Messalonskee High School to ensure more space.

“I haven’t talked to the superintendent yet, but we’re going to try and put the meeting back out at the school in the Performing Arts Center because it’s really large up there,” Bowman said. “We can spread people out and we’ll limit that to 50 people, and if we get more, then we’ll have another back-up space which could be the cafeteria or somewhere at the school.”

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