More than 30,000 people are expected to gather at Oliver Hardy's birthplace Saturday for a festival in his honor.
The 21st annual Oliver Hardy Festival will begin at 9 a.m. with a children's parade through downtown Harlem. A second parade will fill the streets starting at 10 a.m.
More than 350 arts, crafts and food vendors will be selling their wares all day, said Denise Carter, an event organizer.
"I expect to fill up (with vendors)," Carter said. "We usually do."
The all-day festival honoring the rotund half of one of cinema's more famous comedic duos will include live entertainment, look-a-like contests, skits, children's rides and games, a raffle and a silent auction.
The Laurel and Hardy Museum will be showing the pair's movies all day.
Chef Redd will be set up next to the museum on North Louisville Street to sell barbecue as a fundraiser for the museum.
"Anything you buy from Chef Redd, the proceeds will go to the museum," Carter said.
But the crowds of people gathering to celebrate Hardy's hometown also have a large affect on the city and its businesses.
Of the 30,000 people estimated to have attended the festival last year, Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Beda Johnson said nearly 95 percent were "day trippers," as opposed to overnight guests. Those day trippers spent about $2 million during the festival.
Many of them bought items from arts and crafts vendors, but some local businesses felt the positive effect of the crowds.
"We stayed busy all day," said Kim Price, co-owner of My Sister's Loft, a consignment clothing store in downtown Harlem.
She said the busy day not only led to a profitable business day, it introduced the store to many new customers from outside the city.
"It brought people into our store that had never been in," Price said, adding that many of those new customers have become regulars. "We hope this year to gain more new customers."
Retail businesses gain from the crowds, but restaurants don't do as well, said Shirley Cassidy, general manager of Buster's Pizza and Subs, located in the center of the festival bustle on North Louisville Street.
Cassidy said she plans to be at the restaurant's booth, possibly handing out menus, but not open the restaurant.
"People who come to these things want the fair food," Cassidy said, adding she did open the restaurant during the past three years of the festival. "They want funnel cakes and all those novelty things. There's really, really a whole lot of competition. ... When the restaurant is open, all anyone wants to do is use your bathroom."
The event is free.
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