Among The Oaks exhibit

OAKLAND — The historic town of Oakland will commemorate nearly two decades as a Tree City USA through a a special art and history exhibit that explores how the town’s name signifies the beauty of nature. The exhibition, Among The Oaks, will also explore the inspiration behind Oakland’s name and demonstrate how the town cares for its tall, majestic trees.

The exhibit is being hosted at the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center, 126 W. Petris Ave. in downtown Oakland, now through Jan. 6.

What is the Among The Oaks Exhibit?

There are 49 artists in this exhibit, including the Floridians JR Ramoutar, Judi Bradford, Hope Barton, Melissa Gallo, Theresa Chin, Joan Lok, Joe Warren, Dave Minichiello and many more. They bring to this exhibit a diverse mix of art, noted Elisha Pappacoda, Administrative Services and Communications Director for the town.

“Works in various mediums including watercolor, oil, mixed media, and photography follow the theme of trees of all shapes and sizes in fields and forests to wetlands and beaches,” she noted in a news release about the exhibit.

On Dec. 3, there will be an open house for this exhibit. Guests can meet the artists from 3-6 p.m., and art will be available to purchase.

This open house will coincide with Oakland’s Santa’s Lane holiday event on Dec. 3.

“Additionally, guests will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite beautifully decorated Christmas tree as part of the ‘“’Trees of the Season’ display at the Center, where community members display designed trees for a chance to win best in show,” Pappacoda noted.

What is Tree City USA?

The Tree City USA program promotes the benefits that trees bring to urban environments, and communities are encouraged to join this movement and become a Tree City.

“The Tree City USA program provides communities with a four-step framework to maintain and grow their tree cover. It also gives them an avenue to celebrate their work, showing residents, visitors, and the entire country that they’re committed to the mission of environmental change,” the program noted on its website.

Numerous local businesses and organizations contributed trees in Oakland this year, including Oakland Avenue Charter School Spirit Squad, West Orange Creamery, Healthy West Orange, Oakland Nature Preserve, Mike and Mary Ann O’Donnell, Eight Waves, Lakeview Networks, Lakeside Church, Kelly Zanini, Realtor, and the Town of Oakland. The voting ends Jan. 3.

What is the Santa’s Lane Celebration?

Santa’s Lane is on Dec. 3 from 3-6 p.m. at the Oakland Town Center, 230 N. Tubb St.

“Guests will have the opportunity to sit with Santa for a free photo opportunity and kids will go home with a special treat from the North Pole, while supplies last,” Pappacoda noted. “With its quaint downtown, historic buildings and moss-covered oak trees draped in garland, bows and thousands of twinkling lights, Oakland during the holidays has been compared to a Hallmark movie.”

Expect plenty of activities for the entire family to enjoy. That includes opportunities to:

  • Zip down an inflatable Alpine snow slide in a tube
  • Catch snowflakes on your nose along the West Orange Trail in the Snow Zone
  • Enjoy arts and crafts, bounce houses, and milk and cookies in the Family Zone
  • Take selfies at festive photo backdrops
  • Learn more about the town’s history at the “Among the Oaks” exhibit at the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center
  • Dance as Celebrity DJ Renee plays holiday music
  • Wave to Santa and his elves as he rides through town in a convertible, greeting guests in their front yards

Where is Oakland, Florida?

Established in 1887, Oakland is one of the oldest municipalities in Orange County and celebrated its 130th Anniversary in 2017. Their downtown once had an opera house, although a deadly fire decimated much of the downtown that never got rebuilt. Still, their historic City Hall dates back to 1911.

Oakland is also known for its parks and trails, which provide enormous recreational activities for area residents and visitors alike, who enjoy the beauty and natural wonder of parks such as Pollard Park, Speer Park, and VanderLey Park.

Another event during Santa’s Lane will be the opportunity to vote for your favorite tree in the “Trees of the Season” contest at the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center.

While there, stop by and visit the Heritage Center, 126 W. Petris Ave., which has permanent exhibits, including the historic Oakland Presbyterian Church’s illuminated stained-glass window that dates back to the 1919 brick structure, and a video presentation on the continuing historic preservation of Oakland’s Historic African-American Cemetery.

The Center is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the 4th Fridays of the month during the summer and on select Saturdays.

The mission of the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center is preserving Oakland’s past, present and future. The Center supports the mission of Healthy West Orange, a grassroots movement to inspire west Orange County to become the healthiest community in the nation.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at

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