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Oakland's (Other) Big Friday Night Culture Event

Ben Christopher | February 28, 2013 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Tomorrow night, Uptown Oakland can expect the typical blowout as thousands of Bay Area culture vultures, DIY hipsters, food truck aficionados and good ol’ fashioned fun seekers pack onto Telegraph Avenue for the first Art Murmur and First Friday street festival since last month’s fatal shooting.

But on the other side of downtown, just a dozen blocks away from the raucous throng on Telegraph, another cultural fest is taking place at the Oakland Museum of California. It’s called Friday Nights @ OMCA and you can consider it First Friday’s more levelheaded (but still fun-loving) younger brother.

On the menu for tomorrow night: a free salsa dance class, a make-it-yourself instrument demonstration (in the we/customize exhibition), a Hung Liu-inspired drip collage workshop, the typically broad selection of curbside eat and drink options, and, as usual, extended open hours for the galleries and special exhibits.

“We aren’t trying to pull people away from First Friday,” explains Claudia Leung, Communications Coordinator at the museum. “We just wanted to offer a more family-friendly alternative.”

At the event last weekend, the activities were certainly that. Sure, there was enough local beer and wine to go around for the big kids, but between the dozen Off The Grid food trucks lined up along 10th Street, the SambaFunk dance lesson, the “Makers & Tasters” revolving demo on mushroom forging, and the lunch bag puppet making table, the appeal was conspicuously all-ages.

“If you’re a young parent who wants to go out on a Friday, this could be a perfect date night,” says Leung.

With children in tow or otherwise, people do seem to be drawn to the event—so far, anyway. According to Leung, some 2,500 people turned out on January 25 for the OMCA’s inaugural street party. In the handful of events that have followed, turn out has been strong (not First Friday jam-packed, but for some, therein lies the appeal). At the happening last Friday, hundreds gather around the south side of the museum to munch on food truck offerings, try to keep up with the Samba dance instructors, and, happily for the OMCA, wonder off to see the exhibits at half-price.

From a block away, the brightly light street scene hardly resembles the Oakland Civic Center of yesteryear—or even yester-month.

“For a while now all the Friday night activity has been concentrated in one area for the Art Murmur,” says Leung. “But this neighborhood has been waiting for something like this to happen.”

Somehow, Friday nights in Oakland have gotten just a little bit more exciting.

Friday Nights @ OMCA run from 5pm-9pm every Friday. General admission is $6, free for minors; outdoor activities are free.

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