Harlem city officials will open their arms, and their city, to Oliver Hardy fans as they host the 17th annual Oliver Hardy Festival Saturday.
Dale Waters, Sr., seen at the 2000 Hardy Festival in Harlem, will again serve as parade grand marshal.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I'm expecting 35,000 of my closest friends and relatives,'' Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said with a laugh. "...It's the biggest single one-day event in the county."
Roughly that many people are expected to flood the city's six-block downtown area Saturday for the festival, which includes some new additions and some favorite festival traditions.
"Something big we are doing this year is the sticker Prize Patrol," Kathy Ham, chairwoman of the festival planning committee, said. "You'll get your picture made and get your prize."
Prizes include bicycles and gift certificates to Harlem businesses, she said.
To keep the focus on the more rotund member of one of Hollywood's most famous comedic duos, this year's festival will include a one-act competition for area high school drama departments. Winning pairs of the one-act skit competition will take $500 back to their drama department as well as $150 for the pair to split.
The Berth Marks Tent, the local chapter of the international Oliver and Hardy fan club Sons of the Desert, was tapped last year to host the Sons international convention in July 2006. Dean said he expects to see lots of tent members from throughout the country at the festival.
"I'm sure we'll see an influx of them," Dean said. "There will be a good number."
The festival will kick-off with a children's parade at 9 a.m., followed by a parade and live entertainment on two stages all day.
Ham said more than 350 arts and crafts vendors have already committed to be at the festival.
The Harlem Volunteer Fire Department will hold its annual barbecue chicken dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Oliver Hardy look-a-likes, Dale Walter Sr. and Dennis Moriarty, of Canton, Ohio, also will be grand marshals of the festival parade and will be visiting assisted living homes and others this week to promote the festival.
As always, the Oliver Hardy Museum will be open to the public, providing an Oliver and Hardy film festival all day.
Ham said people visiting the festival should park at Harlem Middle School at 375 West Forrest Street and take a golf cart shuttle to the downtown area.
For more information on the festival, call Ham at 556-0401 or visit www.harlemga.org.
If you go
What: The 17th annual Oliver Hardy Festival
When: Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 a.m. until
Where: downtown Harlem
What to expect: arts and crafts, raffles, children's rides, carnival midway, concessions and live entertainment all day.
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