Harlem officials are ready to transform downtown into a street festival in honor of the city's most famous native son as they put on the 19th annual Oliver Hardy Festival.
"It is going to be a big day, phenomenal," festival co-chairwoman Jean Dove said.
About 35,000 people are expected to flock to the city Saturday to celebrate the life of Hardy, who was born in Harlem in 1892.
"We'll be parking them all over town and cram them in and let them have a good day," Mayor Scott Dean said.
The festival is set to begin at 9 a.m. with a children's parade, followed by opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. A second parade is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy impersonators Dennis Moriarty and Dale Walter Sr. as grand marshals.
The festival started in 1989 as a way to keep Hardy's legacy alive. Gradually, it has grown to include the parade, entertainment, arts and food.
Dean said it takes 120 to 150 volunteers and city workers to put the festival on each year.
"It is a community effort. That is why it is so successful," he said.
The festival includes all-day live entertainment on two stages and Laurel and Hardy movies running all day in the theater inside the Laurel and Hardy Museum.
Children's rides and games will be mixed in with Laurel and Hardy skits, raffles, a silent auction and about 350 arts, crafts and food vendors.
"We're maxed out and we have a waiting list," said Denise Carter, an event organizer.
For those who would like a more active role in the festival, Carter said the Laurel and Hardy look-alike contest begins at 12:30 p.m. on the main stage next to the Harlem Department of Public Safety offices.
A barbecue lunch will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the fire station on South Hicks Street as a fundraiser for the museum.
"Chef Redd is donating the barbecue this year and the sauce," Dove said. Plates will cost $6 each.
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