A Little Bit of History at the Oak Street Fair

Some of Oakland County’s most venerable citizens will get their chance to shine in Hazel Park May 16.

That’s the site of the inaugural Oak Street Fair, which will showcase some of that city’s older homes while offering residents a chance to celebrate and learn more about preserving the character of their historic neighborhoods.

“We feel there’s a tremendous economic and social value to these neighborhoods,” says Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County.

But too often, it’s the county’s older neighborhoods — those built before 1960 — that are often overlooked and suffering most from high foreclosure rates and disinvestment.

Rasegan says the Oak Street program aims to put some pride back in these neighborhoods by offering educational and staff resources to help communities preserve historic character while moving forward with sustainable growth and investment.

Launched earlier this year, the Oak Street program will present seminars, workshops and one-on-one consultations with individual homeowners and grassroots community groups intent on breathing vitality into older areas of the county.

The program sets out to recognize the diverse housing options available in Oakland County, including those found in cities like Lake Orion, Hazel Park, Royal Oak and Ferndale, all of which contain sizeable amounts of mid-20th century-era housing stock.

While the program won’t provide financial assistance or monetary grants to, say, renovate blighted homes or clean up unkempt yards, it will act as a type of “one-stop shop” for homeowners and groups wanting information on perking up their homes and communities. Experts and professionals from the county will educate residents or connect them to funding sources or other resources.

“Our contribution is our staff,” says Rasegan.

The Oak Street Fair on May 16 will highlight the ins and outs of the program, while providing a community event officials hope will bring residents together.

The free event will begin with opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. at Scout Park in Hazel Park.

Throughout the day, a midway will play host to dozens of vendor booths with information on wood and window restoration, landscaping, green tips for gardens, energy audits, recycling, roofing and furniture restoration.

The fair will also offer demonstrations and educational workshops on rain barrels, saving money by recycling, healthy homes, foreclosure prevention, and selecting a contractor.

Shortly after opening ceremonies, there will be recreational activities for kids and adults courtesy of the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department. There will be food available for purchase and musical entertainment from the band Shadgrass.

The idea, says Rasegan, is to provide a fun, free event that brings residents together, thereby spurring a newfound sense of camaraderie that will ultimately translate into a renewed sense of pride in the community.

Once residents have pride in their community, he adds, they will be more likely to work at preserving and maintaining the character of that community.

“That builds on the aspect of community and the social interaction of the neighborhood,” says Rasegan.

The county hasn’t yet named the host community for a second Oak Street Fair. There is a possibility of some sort of training workshop for building and home contractors later this year, but plans haven’t been cemented.

Right now, the county is focused on getting the word out about the May 16 event, which Rasegan says is open to all Oakland County residents, not just those who live in Hazel Park.

It’s his hope that as the Oak Street program matures, the true value of Oakland County’s infrastructure will be recognized.

“When we talk about Oakland County,” says Rasegan, “one of its greatest strengths is its diversity.”

The first Oak Street Fair will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 16, at Scout Park in Hazel Park. The event is free. For more information, call the city of Hazel Park at 248-546-4073.

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