MOUNT CARMEL - It started as a way to simply thank borough residents for supporting the Lions Club.

Celebrating its 16th year in 2013, the Oak Street Festival is now one of the organization's most important fundraisers. Sixty-four vendors are on tap for the event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday on the downtown's main thoroughfare.

Event chairman Deno Langis said the Lions Club at one time had a block party, but when that event ended, the idea was born to do something for the public.

"At first, we were happy to break even or make a little money on it," Langis said.

But it's become an important resource instead, and helps support the club's most notable ongoing project: The holiday Meals on Wheels program, in which an average of 160 meals are prepared and delivered on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter.

Several years ago, the Lions scaled down the event, limiting it to a two-block area between Third and Fifth streets, and cut down the number of vendors. Ironically, that has seemed to rejuvenate the festival.

"This year we have 64 vendors coming and we had to turn people away, which is a good sign," Langis said. "We have a lot of quality vendors and we hope everyone will support them."

Entertainment

New this year are three inflatable attractions for children, brought to the area by Fast Break Inflatables.

A number of musical acts will perform during the event, including the well-known vocal duo Pet Rock; Billy D. and Rosie, performing oldies music, and a concert of standards by well-known local performer Vic Boris.

"The Lions Club thanks K&S Music for their help with the sound system to make sure these great entertainers are heard," Langis said.

There will also be a performance by the 'Move Crew,' children ages 3 to 15 from Motivation Station, of Mount Carmel, doing aerobics; and a demonstration by the Susquehanna Trail Dog Club.

There will also be a display of antique cars on West Fourth Street.

"We try to have something for everyone of all ages at the festival, and we hope that everyone will come out and enjoy the day on Oak Street," Langis said.

Money from all club fundraisers, including its semi-annual spaghetti dinner, is invested in the community through meal deliveries, but through free eye exams and glasses, hospital beds, ambulatory equipment, the annual Santa parade, the Christmas tree raising at Charlie McAndrew's car lot at Seventh and Oak streets, a teener league baseball team sponsorship, award dinners for the high school track team and the club's signature event, the Mike Terry Awards, along with donations to charitable organizations.

On the Net: www.mountcarmellions.org.