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Street Eats

How about an intimate dinner with 1000 of your closest friends? For a change, this one isn't a fancy fundraiser in a hotel ballroom or an Intracoastal mansion, it's ten bucks a head, and the table is in the middle of the street: 125 tables lined up for more than 1200 feet of eating space on Twelfth Avenue in front of the Oakland Park City Hall paralleling Old Dixie Highway.

Oakland Park Station's First Annual All-American Town That Came to Dinner is designed to celebrate the 1923 incorporation of Oakland Park, which featured a barbecue and land giveaways. Oakland Park Main Street Inc., a nonprofit whose purpose is to improve and encourage business in the area, sponsors the event (and no, they won't be giving out any land for old times' sake). They work with the City of Oakland Park to revitalize the downtown area, meaning the Dixie Highway corridor from Oakland Park Boulevard to Northeast 38th Street. Tom Fleming, program coordinator for Oakland Park Main Street, relates that Dixie Highway was the first north-south highway in Southeast Florida, which links our state all the way up to New England. It was a major thoroughfare before the construction of Federal Highway, then I-95 and the Turnpike.

The four-block-long dinner table will be loaded with food -- barbecued pork, chicken, cornbread, Southern-style sweet potatoes, green beans with pecans, fresh fruit, and bread pudding -- but guests must bring their own decorations. Prizes will be awarded for the most creative table decorations and costumes. Flappers should be pretty popular; those who can actually remember how to do the Charleston probably have a leg up on winning a ribbon.

The dinner party will be preceded by a parade featuring vintage Packards and an afternoon festival with dance performances, puppeteers, storytellers, historical exhibits, a student design show, and musicians including big band, gospel, and Dixieland music (of course).

Proceeds from the event will be split between Oakland Park Main Street and the Oakland Park Historical Society. Main Street is looking at creating facade-improvement grants with its share of the funds. "This complements the investments of the taxpayers and relieves the burden of local government," Fleming says. Event coordinators expect the proceeds from the day to throw about $30,000 into the pot.

Fleming says he hopes the party will also serve to bring together the town's diverse enclaves of religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. "All of these people are not used to trusting each other. It's a community of many cultural groups who have not had a lot of interactions in many years."

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Karen Dale Wolman

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