Oakland's First Fridays festival returns with thousands gathering for 1st event in more than a year

"This is amazing."
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The music, the dancing, the food all of it is back! Oakland's first Friday festival is here.

"After almost two years, this is amazing," said Oakland Resident, Adriana Contreras.

The last time Adriana and her family came to First Friday's, her daughter was four months old. Today, she speaks and even has her own opinions about the festival.

"Amazing time!," said Arianca Contreras.

Welcoming the crowd of 30 to 50,000 people who typically come to the outdoor festival are the Soul Beatz and three live bands.

"This is historical, it's important and powerful for the city of Oakland," said Rodney Christian-Gilmore a musician with the Soul Beatz.

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This festival also offered a powerful economic boost for small businesses.

"I got a smoothie and sandals," said 12-year-old Ronald Robinson.

Also, food stands welcomed customers from across the Bay Area.

"I live in Stockton," said Veronica Ortiz.

Luz Pena: "You came all the way from Stockton?"

Veronica Ortiz: "Yes, we drove all the way here for this."

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Local nonprofits like "Roots Community Health Center" had an opportunity to share their message and sale their bath products.

"We allow those who have been marginalize a second chance at life in North American and train them up," said Aquil Naji, Chief Operation Officer for Roots Community Health Center

This festival started 15 years ago when neighborhood galleries began hosting an art walk. Now, in 2021 many artists are glad there's a space for them to showcase their work.

"It's super great! We got to have these booths for the first time without a barrier," said Sara Dumanske, owner of 'Painted Wit.'

Cassandra Casares is one of the artists who was offered a free booth to sale her work as part of the Spark Artist Collective, "I think Oakland was missing interacting with each other and interfacing with beautiful faces," said Casares, owner of Casares Designs.

Rachel Sadd, Executive Director at ACE Markerspace had a stand with wood pieces donated by local artist who rent spaces at ACE, "This is one our best opportunities to really reach out to the community in a broad way that we don't to reach every day."

The festival also included a car show, 55 vendors and an art wall with a strong message.

"Oakland has had a lot of challenges. Crime, streets, economics but this is a catalyst because it not only bring a lot of arts and people but it brings people together," said Richard Art Felix with "Everybody can paint" collaborative.

Masks were highly recommended for this outdoor event.

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