Harlem festival makes for Hardy Halloween

Caroline Droms, 7 months, is photographed by mom, Laura, in downtown Harlem, Ga., during the 2010 Oliver Hardy Festival.



Saturday marks the beginning of the spooky season.

It is also the day Harlem lauds its famous son with the 23rd annual Oliver Hardy Festival.

Gates for the day-long festival open at 9 a.m., but the fun will really get under way with a parade through downtown Harlem at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1

Afterward, visitors can shop at more than 300 arts, crafts and food booths and listen to local bands playing a variety of musical genres. Admission and parking are free, and shuttles will be available to transport guests to and from the parking areas.

“(It’s good to) go, have a good time and see a lot of things and not have to spend a lot of money,” said Denise Carter, one of the event’s organizers.

A mainstay of the festival is the Laurel and Hardy look-alike contest, which will take place over two stages, while the real Laurel and Hardy cavort all day in all of their black-and-white glory on the big screen in the Laurel and Hardy Museum.

Harlem’s adopted ambassadors, Dale Walter and Dennis Moriarty, will entertain crowds as Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, respectively. They’ve been portraying the duo at the festival for 15 years, Carter said.

This year’s theme – named for the 1942 Laurel and Hardy flick A-Haunting We Will Go – also lends a nod to Halloween.

“It’ll be fun. Kind of fall in with the season,” Carter said.

In the movie, the slapstick duo accidentally switch a casket containing a not-dead con man with a magician’s prop, creating more than a little hilarity.

It’s appropriate, then, that the newest attraction this year will be Plantation Blood’s The Last Ride, a motion-ride casket.

“It will smell like you’re in a casket. (You’ll) hear sounds and feel like you’re riding in a hearse. It’s what it would feel like if you were planted alive,” said Mark Jackson, co-owner of Plantation Blood.

For more on the festival, see www.harlemga.org.