Organizers of Harlem's 17th annual Oliver Hardy Festival are planning a few additions this year to keep the focus of the festival on Ollie and what he loved.
The annual Oliver Hardy Festival in Harlem each year draws an estimated 30,000 or more people. The festival began in 1988 in honor of movie star and comedian Oliver Hardy, who was born in Harlem. This year's 17th annual festival will be held Oct. 2.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"The DramaFest is our new add-on for this year,' Kathy Ham, chairwoman of the festival planning committee, said Aug. 25 at one of the last organizational meetings before the Oct. 2 festival. "It's to highlight the profession that Ollie was both passionate about and dedicated to all of his life."
Local high school drama departments have been invited to enter a one-act skit competition. Winning acting pairs will take home $500 for their drama department or club and $150 to split.
Ham is hoping for more look-alikes to enter the annual Look-A-Like Contest and more people dressed up in the spirit of Oliver and Hardy as well.
"I just wanted to bring more focus to what the festival is all about," Ham said.
It will begin with a 9 a.m. children's parade Saturday. Festival officials estimated more than 32,000 people crowded the streets of Harlem during the 2004 festival, and it is expected that more could attend this year, especially with the city's notoriety as the host of the 2006 Sons of the Desert International Convention in July, a convention of Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel fans.
Ham said that in an effort to get a more accurate count of attendees, everyone will get a Prize Patrol sticker.
"If you are spotted by the Prize Patrol and your picture is taken, you go up to the stage and get a prize," Ham said. "There's no way to get a total count. When the street is packed so full, how can you estimate how many people that is?"
The planning committee is expecting a crowd with the full lineup - parades, arts and crafts vendors, and entertainment - on schedule.
"We're full (of entertainers)," Ham said. "We are taking a waiting list.''
Ham said 212 arts and crafts vendors are already obligated to be at the festival.
The festival began in 1988 in honor of movie star and comedian Oliver Hardy, who was born in Harlem.
The festival also will feature some of the popular events from years past, such as a parade, which will travel in the reverse direction beginning in downtown and running up Milledgeville Road; a barbecue chicken dinner provided by the Harlem Department of Public Safety firefighters; and Oliver and Hardy movies played at the Oliver Hardy Museum, which honors Ollie and his partner, Stan.
For more information on the festival, call Ham at 556-0401.
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