The normally quiet downtown area of Harlem will be turned into an Oliver and Hardy street party Saturday, with thousands of people crowding its streets for the 18th annual Oliver Hardy Festival.
"That's the equivalent of the Masters for us," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said of the festival honoring Harlem's most famous son. "We get to showcase the town."
The festival is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with a children's parade, followed by opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. A second parade is to begin at 10 a.m. with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy impersonators Dennis Moriarty and Dale Walter Sr. as grand marshals.
Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892. The festival began in 1989 as a way to keep Hardy's legacy alive. Gradually, the festival has grown to include the parade, entertainment, arts, and food.
Festival organizer Kathy Ham, the head of the city's Industry, Trade and Tourism Department and the Laurel and Hardy Museum, said she expects more than 350 vendors this year.
In addition, there will be a third entertainment stage in the parking lot next to the museum in addition to the stages in front of the Harlem Department of Public Safety and City Hall.
"Some of the vendors, they pay for their spot (for the next year) the week after the festival," Dean said.
Winners of the raffle, with prizes as large as a $250 gift certificate, will be announced at about 6 p.m., Ham said. Winners do not need to be present to win.
Silent auction baskets will be on display for bidding outside the museum, as will museum sale items.
Regular but popular festival events such as a look-alike contest, games, and Laurel and Hardy skits also will be offered.
Ham said that the barbecue dinner will be provided by Sconyers Bar-B-Que from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and that proceeds will benefit the museum.
Tickets cost $6 and include pork barbecue with all the fixings.
Ham said she estimates as many as 35,000 people will attend the festival.
"They are coming and going all day long," Dean said.
For a parade or vendor application or for more information, call the museum at (706) 556-0401.
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